Off the Grid in Italy

Morgan and me in Tuscany.

Mom and daughter trip to Tuscany.

Tuscany is Bellissimo!

I haven’t posted in awhile for a very good reason…I was in Italy! I was practically off the grid with unreliable Wifi and no phone plan. My daughter became our navigator with her grasp of Italian and her own data plan. Look forward to lots of pics and posts about Venice, Bologna, Siena and Rome.

I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. Where to next?

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DIY Raincoat Crisps, Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps

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I had never heard of Raincoast Crisps until a friend served her homemade crisps with cheese as appetizers. I couldn’t stop eating them!  Thekitchn describes them perfectly.

“These crackers are thin, crispy, and packed with flavor. The raisins add their chewy texture and sweetness, while the nuts and seeds give the crackers substance. The fresh rosemary gives a breath of pine-y goodness to every bite, just like in the original crackers.”

Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour (to make these gluten-free, substitute with gluten-free flour or rice flour)

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk (to make these gluten-free or non-dairy, substitute with 1 ¾ cups almond milk)

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup honey

1 cup raisins

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

¼ cup sesame seeds1/4 cup flax seed (ground)

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary (I used dried rosemary)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

  1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. Add buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few strokes.
  3. Add raisins, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary. Stir until blended.
  4. Spray two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans with non-stick spray, then pour batter into two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove pans and cool on a wire rack.
  5. The cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice really thin. When ready to continue baking, preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Slice loaves as thin as possible and place slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. (Tip. One loaf can be sliced and baked, and the other can be frozen to be slice and baked at another time.) Bake for about 15 minutes, then flip over and bake another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.

Yield. About 8 dozen crackers.

Source: Dinner With Julie

Tips from  thekitchn

–freeze loaves before slicing in order to get the thinnest crackers

–bake loaves in mini-loaf pans for the perfect cracker shape

–double quantity of rosemary if you love the rosemary taste

–replace half of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour

–plump up raisins before mixing them into batter if you want them to stand out more in finished cracker

 

Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty

Frieze of Dancers, c.1895

Frieze of Dancers c.1895, Oil on canvas

Good Impressions

I’ve always loved Impressionism, so I felt compelled to visit the MOMA to see the exhibit on Edgar Degas before it closes July 24. Maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when a quote by Degas spoke to my experience as a writer. I write, revise, begin again, write, revise, repeat. I just finished listening to the audio version of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. In the Afterword, Gaiman says he waited until he was a good enough writer to write this book. Maybe writing, revising, beginning again and repeating the process is practice until my writing is good enough to bring my stories to life.

Just maybe.

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Two Dancers, c.1898

Two Dancers c.1898, Pastel on eight sheets of pieced paper

The Road in the Forest, c. 1890

The Road in the Forest c.1890, Monotype in oil on paper

Pathway in a Field, c.1890

Pathway in a Field c.1890, Pastel over monotype in oil on paper

Three Dancers, 1900-1905, charcoal and pastel on tracing paper

Three Dancers 1900-1905, charcoal and pastel on tracing paper

 

 

 

American Flag-Inspired Cupcakes and Cookies

Hostess gifts idea: Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. Wrap them in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

DIY Hostess gift idea: Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. These funky melamine dishes are from SEED387. Wrap cookies in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

Need a patriotic-themed kid activity? Or are you in the mood to bake? Either way, enjoy this re-post.

Hon, you know what I like about a holiday besides spending time with family and friends?

 The built-in theme!

One of my daughters and I had fun taking the American flag colors to the extreme.  We baked red, white and blue sugar cookies and cupcakes.  Click here for sugar cookie and Royal Icing recipes.  My daughter decorated with flags while I tried my hand at tie dye effects. I used a toothpick to “drag” two or three icing colors from the center out, then swirled with the toothpick to create a tie dye look.

Patriotic Cookies

Patriotic Cookies.

Tie Dye effect.

Tie Dye effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Coloring on cookies.

Coloring on cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baking Day continued with red, white and blue cupcakes. 

We were inspired by Ziploc Bag’s Patriotic Piped Tri-Colored Cupcakes, but they turned out to be more challenging than they looked.  So, we abandoned our pastry bags and spooned the colored batter into baking cups.  The result?  Still patriotic, fun and delicious.

*Tip:  Wear plastic gloves because colored batter is messy and stains.

1. Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

1. Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

2. Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl vanilla.

2. Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl plain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Transfer three bowls of batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored strips.

3. Spoon batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored stripes.

 

 

4. Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags at all.

4. Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags.

 

 

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5. Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.

5. Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.

 

Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.

Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

American Flag Fun!

American Flag Fun!

America is Beautiful on July 4th

Flags in front of the American Legion post.

Flags in front of the American Legion post, Main Street.

Wishing you a reflective and relaxing July 4th from Main Street…

Hot air balloon at festival in Readington, NJ.

Hot air balloon at festival in Readington, NJ.

To our blue skies…

Liberty State Park, NJ

Liberty State Park, NJ

To wherever you live in the world. 

Ray Charles added his own lyrics to America the Beautiful.

Oh beautiful, for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self, our country loved,
And mercy more than life,
America, America, may God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain devined.
And you know when I was in school,
We used to sing it something like this, listen here:
Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties,
Above the fruited plain,
But now wait a minute, I’m talking about
America, sweet America,
You know, God done shed his grace on thee,
He crowned thy good, yes he did, in a brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

Hon, I was going to quote John Lennon but then I thought you’d enjoy listening to him yourself.

John Lennon’s Imagine song and video.

Imagine.

DIY Graduation Party, Words of Wisdom

Proud of our grads!

Proud of our grads!

Miles of milestones.

Our Words of Wisdom Box was inspired by Advice Boxes on Pinterest. After the graduation party, one of my daughters Tweeted, “”Last night my backyard was basically a Pinterest board.” What can I say? I love a party and I love a theme. If I can combine both, even better!

Words of Wisdom Box

Supplies:

shoebox, wrapping paper, Exacto knife, index cards, scissors, pens, sign, frame, basket or other vessel

Instructions:

  1. Wrap a shoebox in wrapping paper.
  2. Cut index cards in half.
  3. Cut a slit in top of shoebox long enough to slip index cards through.
  4. Make a Words of Wisdom sign. (“Give advice to our new graduates.”)
  5. Set up box, pens, index cards and sign.
  6. Invite guests to be creative.
Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Words to live by.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

“Remember there are a thousand things you haven’t done yet.”

“Believe in yourself. Dream. Try. Do Good.
“Stay true to who you are.”

“Be confident. You are both great. (No tattoos!)”

“Always say yes to opportunities.”

“Never give up!”

“Find something to be thankful for every day.”

“Be a better student. Nevermind, you already graduated!”

 

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guests know where to drop their words of wisdom.

DIY Graduation Party, S’mores Station

Dessert Table.

Dessert Table.

What’s a party without dessert?

Set up a Make-Your-Own-S’mores station. Surround mini burners with marshmallows and graham crackers lined with chocolate.

Do you toast your marshmallow until its lightly-browned or burnt-to-a-crisp? These are important decisions!

One side of the S'mores station.

The graham cracker and chocolate side of the S’mores station.

The marshmallow side of the S'mores station.

The marshmallow side of the S’mores station.

S'more Cupcakes made by The Jersey Smore.

S’more Cupcakes made by The Jersey S’more. These are no ordinary cupcakes. Under the chocolate coating is a s’more. Yum!

Related Posts:

DIY Graduation Party, Step-by-Step Prep

DIY Graduation Party, Cookie Favors

DIY Graduation Party, Mason Jar Centerpieces

DIY Graduation Party, Outdoor Decor

DIY Graduation Party, Selfie Station

Sources: In Thyme Catered Events and The Jersey S’more Company

 

 

 

DIY Graduation Party, Selfie Station

The church bells rang as I took this picture!

Church bells rang in celebration!

Polaroid-Inspired Pics

A Selfie Station is a fun idea for any celebration. Set it up and say, “Cheese!”

Selfie Station How To

  1. Gather supplies: hot glue gun, large piece of foam board or tag board, Exacto knife, photo props (At Michael’s, we found a kit with die-cut graduation props), container to stand props in, large sheet or towel, pushpins, markers.
  2. Assemble props by hot-gluing props to dowels. Stand in a container.
  3. Cut a “window” out of the foam board. Decide if your giant photo frame will be landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) and, using Exacto knife, cut out a large “window” in the middle. Leave a larger band of foam board along the bottom.
  4. Personalize the bottom of your giant photo frame.
  5. Set up a backdrop. Hang a sheet or towel as a backdrop. Keep the sides in place with push pins. (Tip. I tapped each pin with a small hammer, making the backdrop extra secure.)
  6.  Hand write or print out a Selfie Station sign. Place the sign along with props next to the backdrop.
Hot-glue dowels to back of die-cut props.

Hot glue dowels to back of die-cut props.

Fun photo props.

Fun photo props.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut out middle of foam or tag board, leaving a larger space at the bottom for personalization.

Cut a “window” out of the foam board, leaving a large space at the bottom for personalization.

Using pushpins, secure asheet or towel as a backdrop. Set up photo area.

Use pushpins to secure a sheet or towel to the wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let guests know where the Photo Booth is with a sign.

Set up the Selfie Station by the backdrop, including props and a sign.

Me and my Muhlenberg grad.

Me and my Muhlenberg grad.

My college girlfriends' daughters and mine.

My college girlfriends’ daughters and my Plus One. How fun!

 Related Posts on a DIY Graduation Party: 

Party Prep, Step-by-StepCookie Favors, Mason Jar Centerpieces, Outdoor Decor

DIY Graduation Party, Outdoor Decor

Drinks table.

Set up one table for drinks.

Backyard BBQ

It was hot and humid, but it didn’t rain!

I recently posted about Party Prep, and how to create your own Mason Jar Centerpieces and Graduation Hat and Diploma Cookie Favors. If your (graduation, Father’s Day or other milestone) party is approaching, here are some tips and pics on setting up your celebration.

Black and white tablecloths with check napkins said "BBQ, graduation and dressy casual."

Pick colors that set the mood. Black and white tablecloths with check napkins say “BBQ, graduation and dressy casual.”

An old barn crate turned on its side set off the wine.

Turn a crate on its side and add burlap to set off wine bottles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tie a banner for a banner year. We downloaded this banner from Lil Sprout (Greetings), printed it on card stock, cut it out and assembled it.

Tie a banner for a banner year. We downloaded this banner from Lil Sprout (Greetings), printed it on card stock, cut it out and assembled it.

String party lights across wooden stakes delineating the celebration space.

String party lights across wooden stakes delineating the celebration space.

Party lights were also strung along a stone wall.

Set up Tiki torches to keep mosquitoes away and also provide light.

Add tea lights and citronella candles to the tables. The caterer used wooden blocks to raise small flower arrangements.

Add tea lights and citronella candles to the tables. The caterer used wooden blocks to raise small flower arrangements.

Shout out to In Thyme Catered Events who provided the food and great set-up and service.

Happy party planning, hon!

Skype Hype

Acting out the action with kindergarteners.

Acting out the action with kindergarteners.

I’m interrupting the DIY graduation party posts to present…

Skype Hype

In February, I participated in LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day by visiting several local kindergartens. Check out Kindergarteners are Super to learn more about those school visits. Through Microsoft Educator, I connected with teachers in Pennsylvania and Canada and Skyped with their students. Not only did the kids actively listen to books or chapters, they met my adorable dog, Lucy. (Curious how adorable she is? Click here to see for yourself.)

I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, but…

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…if I don’t, who will?

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Guess what came in the mail?

A thank you note from 4th and 5th graders. Shout out to French teacher Madame Diaz who invited me to meet her students. She said, “Thanks for the card and the Skype session Naomi! I think you were by far their favourite Skype guest this year!”

That makes me so happy.

Another big shout out to librarian Ms. Killian. She took these pics and sent me an unexpected review, “On a scale of 1-10 your lesson received a resounding 10!!”

Whew!

She also said, “We had a fantastic time hearing you read the story to us, listening to your experience as a writer, and we love your dog!”

Connect with Ms. Killian on Twitter @CoLIBRAtoRY.

Shout out, also, to middle grade author Darlene Beck-Jacobson who shared Skype tips and featured me on her blog.

Hon, thanks for indulging me. I hope there are many more school visits in my future.

I'm on a big screen.

I’m on a big screen.

Skyping with students.

Skyping with students.

Love this! Ms. Killian asked the students how much they liked the lesson and they gave me 10's. Wow!

Ms. Killian asked the students how much they liked the lesson and they gave me 10’s. Wow!