Cookie Crazy, DIY Party Favors

The baker still needs her "paint!"

The baker and her “paint!”

Hon, have I told you that baking relaxes me? That I have a sweet tooth? That I love a theme? Favors give guests a piece of the party to take with them. What better way to tie it all together than to give out cookie favors? Here are a bunch I baked recently.

Hubby’s Music-Themed Birthday Dinner.

Cookie favors wrapped and ready.

Cookie favors wrapped and ready.

Record player cake from Sweet Lucy's in Morristown.

Record player cake from Sweet Lucy’s in Morristown. I haven’t baked with fondant yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you like these record player cookies?  I paint each one to look like it's turning.

Do you like these record player cookies? I painted them to look like they were turning.

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Tween Daughter’s Broadway-themed Milestone Birthday and Big Event.

I know it's nuts, but I baked 240 cookies.

I know it’s nuts, but I baked 240 cookies.

I drew a city sky-line...

I drew city sky-lines…

...then cut them out.

…then cut them out…

 

 

 

 

...but found it easier and quicker to paint skylines by hand.

…but found it easier and quicker to paint s”buildings” by hand.

Skylines drying.

Skylines drying.

"Windows" added with squeezable white icing.

“Windows” added with squeezable white icing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapped and ready to go.

Wrapped and ready to go.

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Party favors for a friend’s 40th birthday.

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"40" cookie cutters, blue and black Royal Icing and white squeezable icing were all part of the process.  Shout out to artist daughter who helped me decorate them.

“40” cookie cutters, blue and black Royal Icing and white squeezable icing were all part of the process. Shout out to artist daughter who helped me decorate them.

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Leftover Dough from the “40” Cookies to bring to Raku Firing Day.

Teapot cookies for the creative crowd.

Teapot cookies for the creative crowd.

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Recipe for Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing–just scroll down on the “Melted Snowman Cookie” post to find the recipes.

Happy baking!

Do you have any fabulous favor ideas? I’d love to hear them. :)

Amish Country, A Step Back in Time

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Hon, Bmore Energy might be a lifestyle Blog, but sometimes I feel compelled to break format. The news of the kidnapping of two Amish sisters reminded me of a childhood incident, so I’m combining memory with photographs. Both took me back in time.

When I was in elementary school, and walking home from a friend’s house, a creepy man driving a sketchy car veered to the wrong side of the street and cruised downhill alongside me. I can’t remember if I was 10 or 11 years-old, but I’ll never forget what that man looked like. I could pick him out of a lineup. I felt exposed by his laughing eyes and curling lips.  He sneered, inviting me to join him. I ran, afraid to look back, terrified that he was chasing me. I bolted behind houses until I reached my back door. I banged and screamed until my mother heard me. I was safe. I was fine.

Not really the first loss of innocence for me, but definitely the scariest up until then.

So, two “smart, strong, resilient,” Pennsylvania Dutch speaking Amish sisters are back home. Safe. But, their ordeal isn’t really over. G-d speed their inner and outer healing, and the vanquishing of demons cruising streets with evil eyes and sneering mouths.

Hopefully, open sky, fertile fields and green land will bring peace of mind.  Can you smell the scent of overturned earth in these photos?

Lancaster, PA

Lancaster, PA

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Farming tobacco.

Farming tobacco.

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Summer Dinner Menu

Chicken Slider, Potato Salad and String Beans

Chicken Slider, Potato Salad and String Beans

I was so happy with this meal, I wanted to share the whole menu with you.

Happy cooking, hon!

Salad:  Escarole with green apple, celery root and toasted pecans

Main Dish:  Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo

Side Dish:  Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

Veggie:  Steamed String Beans

Dessert:  Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Escarole salad

Escarole Salad recipe found in Fine Cooking magazine.

Salad:  Escarole with Green Apple, Celery Toot and Toasted Pecans

According to Fine Cooking, the vinaigrette tastes better when made ahead. The recipe recommends preparing vinaigrette up to 2 days before serving and store in refrigerator, tightly covered. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature and whisk lightly before dressing salad.

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon minced shallot

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium head escarole (about 1 lb.)

1 medium Granny Smith Apple (7-8 oz.)

1 small celery root (about 1/2 lb.)

1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted (I spread them out on a toaster tray and toasted them a few times.)

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

optional:  1/4 lb. blue cheese, crumbled to yield about 1 cup (I didn’t add blue cheese to the salad above.)

Directions:

1.  To make the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, shallot, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black petter. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes, then whisk in olive oil. (If adding blue cheese, add 2 Tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese and stir gently.)

2.  Remove any tough, discolored, or broken outer escarole leaves. Trim off root end and tear leaves in bite-size pieces.  Wash well.  (Estimated amt-6 lightly packed cups.) If you prepare the escarole ahead of time, store in a bowl covered with a slightly damp towel in the fridge until ready to toss.

3.  Up to 1 hour before serving the salad, peel, core, and dice apple into 1/4 inch cubes (about 1 1/4 cups). Slice the thick skin from celery root and dice it the same as the apple. (I didn’t have celery root, so I just diced a celery stalk.)

5.  Add celery to diced apple and toss with 2 Tablespoons of vinaigrette to prevent discoloration. Cover and refrigerate until ready to toss the salad.

6.  Ten minutes before serving salad, toss the escarole and apple/celery root mixture with remaining dressing. Break up pecans into salad and toss to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and petter. (If adding blue cheese, the magazine says the blue cheese will add a little saltiness, so don’t oversalt the salad. Crumble remaining blue cheese over salad just before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

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Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo

Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo from blog Mamas Gotta Bake

Main Dish:  Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo

Slider Ingredients:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, flattened and cut into approx. 2″ x 4″ pieces (I bought mine pre-flattened and used a little more chicken than the recipe called for.)

1 1/2 cups panko crumbs (or regular bread crumbs if you can’t find panko crumbs)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 Tablespoon milk (I used almond milk.)

vegetable or canola oil for frying

salt and pepper to taste

8 mini slider rolls (I found dairy-free Mini Pretzel Rolls at Whole Foods)

Extras–lettuce, tomato, onion

Herbed Mayo Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon finely minced parsley

1 teaspoon finely minced chives

1 teaspoon finely minced chervil (optional)

1/2 teaspoon mustard (dijon or brown)

1 teaspoon lime juice

salt and pepper to taste

(I used a combo of fresh and dried herbs.)

Directions:

1.  Rinse chicken with cool water and pat dry.  Cut into approx. 2″ x 4″  pieces. LIghtly season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Make a “dredging station” by putting panko crumbs in one shallow bowl, the flour mixed with salt and pepper in another shallow bowl, and the 2 eggs beaten with 1 Tablespoon of milk (or dairy substitute) in a another shallow bowl.

3.  Using tongs or a fork, dip chicken into flour and gently shake off excess.  Next, dip it into egg mixture on both sides. Last, dip chicken into panko crumbs, pressing crumbs to adhere to chicken. Lay finished coated pieces on a wax paper covered baking sheet.

4.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, pour vegetable oil about 1/4″ deep. Fry chicken when oil has heated up (but not too hot, otherwise the outside coating will burn and the chicken inside won’t cook through.) Without crowding pan, fry chicken until pieces are golden brown. I always check doneness of chicken by making a small cut before removing from pan.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

5.  To make the Herbed Mayo, place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to your own taste. Cover bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

6.  Assemble sandwiches, spread with Herbed Mayo.

Servings:  8 Slider Sandwiches

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Old-Fashioned Potato Salad from cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home

Old-Fashioned Potato Salad from cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Side Dish:  Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

Ingredients:

3 pounds small red potatoes

kosher salt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup buttermilk, milk, or white wine (I used white wine in dish above.)

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup medium-diced celery

1/2 cup small-diced red onion

Directions:

1.  Place potatoes and 2 Tablespoons salt in large pot of water. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until potatoes are barely tender when pieced with a knife.  Drain potatoes in a colander, then place colander with potatoes over empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel.  Leave potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, buttermilk (or wine), Dijon and whole-grain mustards, dill, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

3.  When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters or halves, depending on their size.  Place cut potatoes in a large bowl and pour dressing over them to moisten.  (As the salad sits, you may need to add more dressing.) Add celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.

4.  Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow flavors to blend.

Serves:  6 to 8

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Dessert:  Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (thin and crisp)

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup salted butter or margarine, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Either grease two cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.

2.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3.  In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars.  Add the water and vanilla.  Mix the ingredients until they are just combined.

4.  Add the eggs and mix them lightly.  Stir in the flour mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Don’t overmix the dough.

5.  Drop the cookies 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

6.  Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges and centers are brown.  Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  4 1/2 dozen three-inch cookies.

Unbaked cookie dough may be left in fridge for a few days and freezer for over a month.

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Sources:

Fine Cooking magazine

Mama’s Gotta Bake blog

Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten cookbook

Bon Appetit website

Albuquerque Cowboys

Rainbow Balloon

Rainbow Balloon ascending at sunset.

Sunset ascension.

Sunset ascension.

Eyes on the sky, NJ.

Eyes on the sky, NJ.

Wicked Balloon

Wicked Balloon

Defy Gravity!

Defy Gravity.

 

 

 

 

 

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The New Jersey Festival of Ballooning is really something to see! Hundreds of hot air balloons fill the evening, summer sky.  The sinking, orange sun chases the baby blue away until indigo dyes the horizon.

The first hot air balloon ascension I ever saw was in New Mexico.  Hubby and I were hiking in Santa Fe when we heard about a Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.  We’d need to drive an hour or so to get there.  The balloons were to ascend at 6 am.  Our plan was to leave before the crack of dawn.

Right before hitting the road, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts.  Caffeine was essential at 4:30 am!  Who did I see but three men sitting at the counter wearing cowboy hats.  Not so unusual for New Mexico.  They were also wearing chaps.  Hmm, seemed like real leather.  And cowboy boots with spurs?  I hadn’t seen anyone wear spurs since my brother was a little kid.

Hon, do you know me at all?  I was itching to introduce myself and ask what the heck those men were doing at Dunkin’ Donuts in chaps and spurs at 4:30 am!  I was practically jumping out of my seat and I hadn’t even had half a cup of coffee yet!

You want to know what Hubby said to me?  He said, “You’re crazy!  Don’t bother those men!”  But I kept craning my neck to get a better look at those spurs!

“Fine,” Hubby said.  “Do what you want, but don’t involve me.  In fact, I’m going to pretend I don’t even know you.”

Humph.  

It could be the writer in me, the kid in me, or who-knows-what, but I sauntered over to those three men, hanging over their steaming hot cups.

“Hi,” I said.  “I’m from New Jersey and I’ve never seen anyone in chaps and spurs.  Do you mind telling me where you’re going?”

Those nice men lifted their tired eyes from their coffee and told me how they’d been camping in the desert for several days, how they’d ridden up from Albuquerque, and how their horses were in the parking lot.  Did I want to see their horses just as soon as they’d finished their coffee?  I’d definitely never seen horses in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot before. “Yes, I’d like to see them, thank you very much!” and “If I send you a copy, can I take a picture?”

Guess who decided to join our friendly conversation?  Hubby.  We compared the landscape of the Southwest to the Northeast, described what Manhattan looks likes, and talked about lots of other stuff.

I don’t know what thrilled me more.  Meeting those Albuquerque Cowboys or watching hundreds of hot air balloons inflate and rise to the sky.

Cowboys and their horses.  Thanks for the picture, guys!

Cowboys and their horses. Thanks for the picture, guys!

 

 

 

 

 

Cool Results from Hot Pots (Raku Workshop Part 3)

Sparks fly as sawdust is tossed on a hot pot. The heat of the fire reacts with the clay and glaze to create a crackling effect.

Sparks fly as sawdust is tossed on a hot pot. The heat of the fire reacts with the clay minerals and metal elements of the glaze to create a crackling effect.

Raku Crew:  Mary, Sharon, Judy, Peter, Maxine (and me).

Raku Crew: Mary, Sharon, Judy, Peter, Maxine (and me).

Raku firing is exciting!  

There’s an extremely hot kiln, orange-glowing earthenware, combustible sawdust and straw and surprise results.  The process is illustrated in my two previous posts, Red Hot Raku and Raku Reaction.

Peter Syak, our amazing instructor, mixes his own glazes.  He knows how much exposure to air–or not, how much sawdust to add–or not, and how long to keep pots covered–or not, is required to get the amount of crackling, luster and intense color desired.  Still, oxygen, heat, or a pause in placement of buckets all contribute to the outcome.

The earthenware’s temperature drops as it sits under the metal buckets.  The reaction process stops when each piece is quenched in a trashcan filled with water.  Soot is scrubbed off, pieces are cleaned, and we “ooh and ahh” at the results.

Have you heard of Horse-Hair Raku?  I hadn’t either.  Instead of placing a red-hot pot in a reduction chamber (ie. metal buckets with combustible material), its decorated by touching horse hairs to the the 1800 degree clay surface. The hair ignites, creating dark grey lines and smudges.  Similarly, sugar sprinkled on the burning surface reacts with the clay.  Take a look!

Maxine touching individual horse hairs to her burning hot pot.

Maxine touching individual horse hairs to her burning hot pot.

Sugar sprinkled on the pot creates texture and unexpected spots.

Sugar sprinkled on the pot creates texture and unexpected spots.

Three of my pieces.

Three of my pieces.

Maxine's wheel-thown vases.  Isn't the crackling cool?

Maxine’s wheel-thown vases. Isn’t the crackling cool?

My "button vase" with a happy goat and flower stamps as "buttons."

My “button vase” with a happy goat and flower stamps as “buttons.”

Judy's tea box with a piece of driftwood that she'll attach to the top.

Judy’s tea box with a piece of driftwood that she’ll attach to the top.

Lovely!

Lovely!

Hon, have you every tried raku?  What did you create?

 

 

 

Raku Reaction (Raku Workshop Part 2)

Fire and smoke.

Fire and smoke.

In my previous post, Red Hot Raku (Raku Workshop, Part 1), the kiln was king.  You can bet we listened carefully when our amazing instructor, Peter Syak, guided us through the reduction process!  Even so, when we were on “bucket brigade” and handled our pieces just transferred from the kiln, the heat seeped right through our extra-thick, fire-retardent gloves.  I had to rip the gloves off and fan my fingers!

Guess what happens when ANYTHING touches a surface that’s 1800 degrees F?  It bursts into flames!

Here are some pictures of the process.  Hon, stand back from the fire…unless you’re on “bucket brigade.”

Beds are prepped and waiting for our red hot hand built and wheel thrown pieces.

Beds are prepped and waiting for our hand-built and wheel-thrown pieces.

Peter calls lifting the kiln lid "a dance!"

Peter calls lifting the kiln lid “a dance!”

 

 

 

 

 

Peter removes our red hot pieces and QUICKLY and CAREFULLY places each piece in a spot on the sawdust bed.

Peter uses long, metal tongs to remove our red hot pieces.  He QUICKLY and CAREFULLY places each piece in a spot on the sawdust bed.

Our earthenware is set in the sawdust bed and covered with metal buckets filled part-way with straw.

Metal buckets, roasting pans and planters cover our pieces (and conduct heat).

Metal buckets, roasting pans and planters cover our pieces (and conduct heat).

Mary and Peter nestle a bucket on a large piece, attempting to minimize any air leakage.

Mary and Peter nestle a bucket on a large piece, attempting to minimize any air leakage.

“Aluminum containers act as reduction tubes. Reduction is a decrease in oxidation number.  Closing the can reduces the oxygen content after the combustible materials such as sawdust catch fire and forces the reaction to pull oxygen from the glazes and clay minerals.  Luster gets its color from deprivation of oxygen. The reaction between the oxygen and clay minerals affects the color of the clay and the metal elements of the glaze.” (Wikipedia)

We "burped" our pieces by quickly lifting the buckets and lids, adding more sawdust and covering as quickly and carefully as possible.

I help “burp” the pieces by lifting buckets and lids, while Peter adds more sawdust.

Peter checks each piece, throwing sawdust on the ones where more crackling is desired.  Pieces are re-covered and buckets and lids are nestled into the beds to reduce escape of air/ smoking.

Peter tosses sawdust on the ware where more crackling is desired. Pieces are quickly and carefully re-covered. Buckets are nestled into beds to reduce escape of air/ smoking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tossing sawdust on a burning hot pot.

Tossing sawdust on a burning-hot pot.

Whoosh!  The sawdust bursts into flames.

Whoosh! The sawdust bursts into flames.

 

 

 

 

Dramatic flames and experienced hands.

Dramatic flames and experienced hands.

Judy's sculpture was re-covered and left to cool a bit more before it was handled again.

Judy’s sculpture was re-covered and left to cool a bit more before it was handled again.  Notice the crackling of the glaze.

What happens next?  

Red Hot Raku (Raku Workhop Part 1)

Hake and regular paintbrushes.

Hake and regular paintbrushes.

Clay Maven

You know how I love to “play with clay“?  This summer I learned something new.  I learned Raku!

I just finished a wonderful workshop given by master ceramicist, Peter Syak.  He instructed more and less experienced (umm, that would be me) students how to create vases, plates, boxes and sculptures, and how to fire them in a raku kiln.

According to Wikipedia, Raku originated in Japan and is “thick-walled, rough, lead-glazed earthenware.” Raku means “enjoyment, comfort and ease.”  The workshop was definitely enjoyable, but as for comfort, I smelled like a smokestack at the end of the day.  As for ease, I’m not so sure.  If it weren’t for Peter’s engineering-background and careful attention to detail and safety, we might have glowed orange like our pots after baking in 1800 degrees Fahrenheit!

Over four weeks, we hand-built with raku clay and painted with glaze.  Peter bisque-fired our greenware.

I couldn’t wait to take part in a raku firing.  Hon, hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the process!

Outdoor kiln.

Outdoor kiln.

A propane tank feeds gas into the kiln.  Our pieces are already inside, baking as the Pyrometer tells us when the temperature has reached about 1600 degrees F.

Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.

Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.

Low temperature.

Low temperature.

Extremely hot!

Extremely hot!

 

 

 

 

 

Hor air vent on top of kiln.

Hor air vent on top of kiln.

Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.

Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.

Our pieces glow orange.

Our pieces glow orange.

Red Hot Raku!

 

DIY Clean-Lines Centerpiece

DIY Centerpiece

DIY Clean-Lines Centerpiece

Last month, Hubby and I hosted a big family event.  Hon, you know what I love about a party besides celebrating happy occasions with friends and family?  The theme!  I love coordinating colors and carrying the theme through the details. It fires up my imagination.

Since the theme of the party was Broadway shows, the Manhattan skyline became a design element on the favors, large scale decorations and the centerpieces. I created the vessels and then handed them off to florist Kristen Carlberg*, who brought my vision of happy, bright, colorful bouquets to life.  I must give a shout out to my good friend, Ina Wallman*.  Not only does she have an exquisite eye for design, she helped me focus my many ideas into one cohesive plan.

Each table was set with cream tablecloths and fuchsia napkins.  Round tables featured one larger (6 inches by 6 inches) centerpiece while larger oval tables featured three smaller (5 inches by 5 inches) centerpieces, lined up in a row.

*If you are interested in getting in touch with florist, Kristen Carlberg or interior designer, Ina Wallman, please leave a comment or email me at bmoreenergy@gmail.con and we’ll exchange contact info.

Happy decorating, hon!

Supplies:

–Unfinished wooden boxes. I bought mine at G & G Distributors, a wholesale floral and craft store and website.

–White paint.  I used leftover water-based wall paint, semi-gloss.

–Paintbrushes or foam brushes.

–Drop cloth.

–Decorations to wrap around the boxes.

–Varnish, optional. (I didn’t varnish the boxes, but wish I did.  Water-based paint tends to run when water touches it.)

–Glass inserts for flowers and water. The florist supplied these.  She measured the insides of the boxes ahead of time so she’d know what sizes to get.  The unfinished wooden boxes came with thin, plastic liners.  If I was using floral green foam, then the plastic liners might have sufficed, but they wouldn’t hold cut flowers in water.

Steps:

–Gather supplies, including wrap-around stickers or whatever you are using for decorating the boxes.  Hubby has a talent for graphic design so he worked up a Manhattan skyline and ordered the custom-designed stickers an online site.  Or a paper design (not on paper that’s too thin) that coordinates with your theme can be used.  Paper designs can be secured around the perimeter of the boxes using craft glue.

–Measure designs by wrapping them around boxes and cutting them to fit.  They’ll be ready to apply once the boxes are painted and dry.

–Paint boxes and dry thoroughly.

–Apply designs.

–Varnish, optional.

–Add glass inserts and flowers.

–Set your tables and enjoy!

1. Unfinished wooden boxes were painted white with leftover wall paint.

Unfinished wooden boxes were painted with leftover water-based, semi gloss wall paint.

2. Custom-designed stickers were wrapped around each fully-dried, painted box.

Custom-designed stickers were wrapped around each fully-dried, painted box.

Boxes decorated with wrap-around stickers.

Boxes decorated with wrap-around stickers.

Three 5" x 5" boxes were lined up on oval tables. One 6" x 6" box was set in the center of round tables.

Three 5″ x 5″ boxes were lined up on oval tables. One 6″ x 6″ box was set in the center of round tables.

The florist measured the insides of the boxes, so she could pick up the correct sized glass inserts.

The florist measured the insides of the boxes, so she could pick up the correct sized glass inserts.

I love the contrast of the colorful flowers against the white box.

I love the contrast of the colorful flowers against the clean lines of the white box.

Bright, pretty, happy!

Bright, pretty, happy!

Orange Cake

Orange Cake

Orange Cake

1. Beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

1. Beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

2. Peel, cut into chunks and seed oranges.

2. Peel, cut into chunks and seed oranges.

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3. After whirling oranges in food processor, add them to butter/sugar batter and beat until blended.

3. After whirling oranges in food processor, add them to butter/sugar batter and beat until blended.

4. Add flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder to bowl and beat until smooth.

4. Add flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder to bowl.

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5. Beat batter until smooth.

5. Beat batter until smooth.

6. Before pouring batter into Bundt pan, spray non-stick spray and possibly line bottom with parchment paper.

6. Before pouring batter into Bundt pan, spray non-stick spray and possibly line bottom with parchment paper.

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7. Pour batter into pan.

7. Pour batter into pan.

8. Bake at 325 degrees F for approx. 55 minutes.

8. Bake at 325 degrees F for approx. 55 minutes.

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9. Make glaze by whisking powdered sugar with orange juice.

9. Make glaze by whisking powdered sugar with orange juice.

10. Drizzle glaze over inverted, slightly cooled cake. Let glazed cake set before serving.

10. Drizzle glaze over inverted, slightly cooled cake. Let glazed cake set before serving.

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Bon Apetit!

Bon Appetit!

Orange Cake

Even though I haven’t posted a recipe in awhile, I’ve still been cookin’ up a storm. This Orange Cake was a winner! It’s easy to make, light and delicious. I brought it to a friends’ BBQ and one slice just wasn’t enough.

As I always say, “Happy baking, hon!”

Source:  MyRecipes.com

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened (I used margarine to make the cake non-dairy)

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 oranges (about 1 lb total), ends trimmed, then cut into chunks and seeded

2 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon orange juice

non-stick cooking-oil spray

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Coat a 10-cup Bundt pan with non-stick cooking-oil spray.  (Tip: I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and sprayed the sides and middle section of pan.)

2.  In a large bowl, use a mixer on medium speed to beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs.

3.  Whirl orange chunks in a food processor until mostly smooth but not pureed.

4.  Add 1 1/2 cups orange mixture to butter/ sugar batter and beat until blended.

5.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to batter and beat until smooth.

6.  Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan.

7.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it, about 55 minutes.  Cool pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto rack and let cool completely.

8.  In a small bowl, whisk together powdered (confectioner’s) sugar and orange juice.  Drizzle over inverted, slightly cooled cake.  Let glaze set, then slice cake.

Yield:  serves 12

Quotes and Notes (from the NJSCBWI14 Conference)

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The last weekend in June, I attended the New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference.  I entered the conference nervous but excited. I left the conference exploding with ideas, anxious to start revisions, and encouraged by the connections I made.

I was inspired by illustrator and writer Floyd Cooper‘s Opening Keynote speech, and choked up after listening to Rachel Vail‘s Closing Keynote speech.  If a writer leaves me with a lump in my throat and tears threatening to make my mascara run, then her words have reached the core of why I persist with passion.  Surely, I’m on the right path?

Hon, I thought you’d enjoy quotes from the conference paired with pictures.

“Voice puts color and emotion on the page.”  (Susan Hawk)

Color and emotion.

Color and emotion.

Each girl has her own voice.

Each girl has her own voice.

“What does love require of us?”  (Rachel Vail)

Me and Three when they were 12 weeks.

Me and Three when they were 12 weeks.

“We have to have the courage to press that bruise.”  (Rachel Vail)

An accidental shiner care of my "Plus One."

An accidental shiner care of my “Plus One.”

“Make me laugh.”  (Quinlan Lee)

Laughing is contagious.

Laughing is contagious.

“Being brave is not the opposite of worry.”  (Rachel Vail)

I should've joined the circus!

I should’ve joined the circus!

“Gaze through a world made up paper and ink.”  (Rachel Vail)

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 This quote isn’t from the conference, but it speaks to me just the same.

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”  (John Wayne)

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Tween and me in Monument Valley, Utah.  We galloped to the base of the buttes and our American Indian guide sang us a lullabye his grandma sang to him.