Hello Summer!

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
Albert Camus

Summer – long days, sunshine, lovely flowers and the warmth! The only reason I can survive winter is because it makes summer even better..  When I was a kid my mom used to make homemade popsicles out of Jello and Kool-Aid. They were so good!  I had to look up the recipe to share – and I found it!

  • 1 package unsweetened Kool-Aid (1/4 ounce size and any flavor)
  • 1 package (3 ounce size) Jello, any flavor
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Popsicle sticks
  • 3 ounce paper cups
  • Or popsicle molds

Dissolve the Jello and sugar in the boiling water.  Dissolve the Kool-Aid in the cold water. Mix the Jello/sugar mixture with the Kool-Aid. Pour into paper cups or popsicle molds. Freeze until the partially frozen and then put in the popsicle sticks.  Freeze until solid and then enjoy.  Yummy!

DSC_0009

This little bear from Simon says Stamps is eating a raspberry popsicle.  I had such fun making him and seeing how much stuff I could jam onto one small card (halfway kidding – but I did add a lot of extras!). I love his little polka dot shorts.  I colored him with Copic markers and I added a little smile to his sweet face because obviously a raspberry popsicle would make him smile. The popsicle and the sentiment are part of the stamp set.  I used Wink of Stella and glossy accents to enhance various parts – the polka dots on the shorts, some of the paper flags, the popsicle, and the bear’s nose.

The flags were die cut from a Clearly Besotted die cut set.  I did some layering of papers and attached both the flags and the buttons with Glossy Accents,  I added a little circle paper clip just to add some interest and glued the finished product to an A2 card. It’s hard to see the Glossy Accents and Wink of Stella – hopefully the pictures below will help.

Thanks for looking!

DSC_0013 (1) DSC_0015

 




The Art of Sending Greeting Cards

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. Garrison Keillor

In the 1990s I started rubber stamping.  And I loved it so much that eventually it became a business – first I started a sales rep company and worked for many vendors, then one of my vendors hired me to work for them.  I taught classes, did demonstrations, even wrote a book. I look back on that time of my life with great fondness, but I learned a very valuable lesson – sometimes turning something you love into a business makes you lose your love for your hobby. For a long time I had no interest in making cards or anything related to that activity.  I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things and even had a wonderful time teaching a group of kids to make a waterfall card. To see their eyes light up when they successfully created a card that moves was pretty thrilling! Here are a few examples of some cards I made during my “other” life:

These darling images were drawn by Shelly Comiskey, who is first and foremost an incredible clay artist (check out her Facebook page – Simply Shelly Designs).  Her rubber stamp designs are sold exlusively by Whipper Snapper Designs – and they are all darling.

At any rate, lately I’ve been thinking about sending out greeting cards. I still don’t have a really strong desire to make my own (although that may happen again someday!). I have been sending e-cards – particularly from Jacqui Lawson (jacquilawson.com), who does charming and delightful moving interactive e-cards; as well as an astounding advent calendar that perfectly captures the wonder of Christmas.  But I still miss sending out a card that someone can hold.  There’s the excitement of getting a piece of mail that isn’t an ad or a bill, and knowing that someone made the effort to pick out, purchase and send a card. But cards are expensive, and I don’t know about you, but I rarely have a stamp in the house anymore.

Along comes my sweet friend Pam – Pam is a distributor for a company called Send Out Cards.  Now I have to admit that Pam has told me about this company several times and although I was interested, I never made the effort to really check into it.  That is, until last Saturday.  Pam and her daughter came over to spend the day with me to learn how to make candy.  And did we make candy! Fudge and caramels and layered peppermint bark and homemade Butterfinger candy bars and meringue nuts and homemade hot chocolate! Whew. But more to come on that later (with pictures and instructions!).  Late on Saturday when we were all in a happy, sugar-induced haze, Pam and I started looking at Send Out Cards online.  And I have to tell you, I’m hooked. 

This is such a wonderful concept.  For a basic fold-over 5″ x 7″card just like you find at the store (Send Out Cards calls this a two panel card), you’ll spend under $1.00 including postage.  I signed up for the “pay as you go” package, which cost me $15.00.  For my $15.00, I received 20 points and $5.00 in my expense account. The expense account is used for postage (as well as gifts if you choose to send one).  Each basic two panel card costs 2 points.  You also have the option to send a postcard, 4 panel card or a “big” card which is 8.2″ x 11.5″.  There are literally thousands of cards to choose from, in every type of theme and category – funny, faith, love, holidays, you name it. You can add your own pictures to your cards and any message you like, with a nice selection of fonts.  The program is very intuitive and easy to work with – I had so much fun I sent out 4 cards on Saturday.  Once you have created your card, you simply put in the address of the recipient, and send it.  Send Out Cards prints it, puts it in an envelope (unless it’s a post card), stamps it, and mails it within just a few hours. I’ve added a link to my blogroll for Send Out Cards.

So now I’m off to send a few more cards.  Can’t wait to to hear the reactions from my friends and family! And, I think this is going to make Christmas much easier.

Cookies and Milk and Thanksgiving and Christmas

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8

I believe in an earlier posting I may have alluded to the fact that even though I’m no longer in school (yeah, okay that’s the understatement of the year), I still think having cookies and milk when I get home is a great way to start the evening.  I love to dunk cookies in milk, and being the incredible cookie snob that I am, they of course have to be homemade. And I like my cookies sort of chewy and crispy all at the same time – unlike my husband who likes them hard as a rock.  I think this might be because his mom made an amazing slice and bake refrigerator cookie that was specifically formulated to be a dunker, e.g. a harder cookie.  So to make sure he gets cookies he likes, I always completely overcook two pans full just for him.  This is also kind of a defense mechanism, because if I don’t provide him with cookies that are too hard for normal folks to enjoy, he’ll simply leave the bag or the container open to ensure they get stale and hard as quickly as possible.

I will also now publicly admit to the fact that I will make cookies in anticipation of upcoming holidays and freeze them, in order to cut down on the amount of last minute baking. The reason I’ve hesitated to admit to this is because when I was growing up, my mom did the same thing.  And my brother and I pestered her unendingly and constantly while explaining to her that cookies were for eating, not freezing.  And we would raid the freezer anytime we could get away with it.  Actually, my dad, brother and I all raided the freezer without any guilt whenever we could.  I can remember my dad nonchalantly taking a spoon from the kitchen drawer, and then sort of innocently strolling downstairs to eat ice cream right out of the container.  My mom tried to help him with his diet because he had heart issues, so she was pretty aware of what was going on.  She had a sixth sense about when he was on a foray to the freezer, and if I had a nickel for everytime she’d yell down the stairs, “PHIL!!! Get out of that ice cream!”, I’d have at least $6.00. Plus I knew if I caught him at it he’d always offer to share as long as I didn’t tell mom.  We also used to search the house for the big candy holidays – Halloween and Easter, and I hate to brag, but we were pretty good. Between the three of us we could almost always suss out the hidden goodies.  And we were first class at looking innocent and blaming each other when the big day came and the larder was empty.  Somehow she always managed to come up with enough stuff anyway. Looking back, I think she probably hid decoys in several places to throw us off and kept a supply hidden somewhere. I’m guessing she buried it in the back yard.  She’s a cagey little thing.

Last week I realized that this weekend is October 1st. OCTOBER FIRST!  Okay, trying  not to panic. Eight short weeks until Thanksgiving and only four weeks later ’til Christmas.  This means that I need to get all my presents made and bought, plan two Thanksgiving and one Christmas dinner, all while working full time and trying to keep up with a blog!  Deep breath, I know I can do this.  My plan this year is to send a box of homemade goodies to the majority of the folks on my list.  But there are some others who are getting handmade gifts and I’m not close to finished. My dear friend Pam is coming over next weekend to learn to make candy, and that should spur me on a bit I think.  But in the meantime I can make and freeze cookies.

I started with a basic brown sugar cookie – a Cracked Brown Sugar Cookie to be precise.  This is a lip-smacking cookie and you really can’t eat just one.  They’re buttery and brown sugary sweet, soft and crispy, and perfect for dunking in milk.  Plus they freeze well and they’re easy to make.  I’m not sure where this recipe came from, but it was one of my aunts.  I’ve been making them for over 20 years and they don’t disappoint.  They aren’t fancy, but they are a perfect complement to other cookies and goodies on a holiday plate. A plus to these cookies is that they’re equally delicious with a big glass of homemade lemonade, so they’re a great summer cookie, too.

Ingredients are simple.  Brown sugar, white sugar (not shown because once again the orange canister looked like a glowing alien vessel – once I learn to do lighting correctly I’ll be able to fix that issue!) vanilla, eggs, butter, cream of tartar, baking soda and some salt (also not shown due to a minor brain fart).

Cream the butter and sugars together. Run the mixer for 3 or 4 minutes on a higher speed, and scrape down the sides a couple times.

Pretty!  Now add in the eggs and vanilla and beat it again until it looks like this.

Mix your dry ingredients together and dump ’em in the bowl.

Stir just until combined.  If you over beat the dough once you’ve added the flour, it’ll get tough.

Should look like this.  And it will smell heavenly!  Yes, it’s good dough, too. Try not to eat too much – they’re really good baked, too. At this point you can either start baking them or you can put the dough in the refrigerator for a bit.

When you’re ready to bake them, use a 1″ dough scoop (or hand roll them) and then roll them in granulated sugar. They’re going to spread out a little, so leave about 1″ between cookies.  Bake for between 9 and 10 minutes – until just barely starting to brown.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 30 seconds and then remove them to a rack to cool.  When they’re completely cool store in an airtight container.  To freeze, layer between sheets of clear plastic wrap in an airtight container.  They should freeze well for up to 2 months.

Yep, they’re good!  They’re the ones on the bottom. Tomorrow I’ll post the recipe for the ones on the top – also very yummy!

Cracked Brown Sugar Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (plus additional for rolling)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour

Directions:

If you are going to bake the cookies immediately, preheat oven to 350°.

Cream together the butter and sugars.  Beat for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.

Add vanilla and eggs, and beat for about 1 more minute.

Mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together and add to butter/sugar mixture.  Stir just until combined.

Dough may be refrigerated for up to 2 days until ready to use; or may be baked immediately.

Roll or drop into 1″ balls.  Roll in granulated sugar and place on a heavy duty aluminum cookie sheet at least 1″ apart.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until beginning to brown.  They may not look quite done, but they’ll be fine.  Let them rest on the cookie sheet for about 30 seconds and then remove to cool on a wire rack.  When completely cooled, store in an  airtight container.  May be frozen up to 2 months if well-wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container.


Simple Scrumptious Shortbread Cookies

Sail the main course in a simple sturdy craft. Keep her well stocked with short stories and long laughs. Go fast enough to get there but slow enough to see. Moderation seems to be the key. Jimmy Buffett

Yep, I think of Jimmy Buffett as my pal.  He’s been with me for over 30 years, singing songs that seem to perfectly reflect whatever I was feeling at the time.  Right now my life is at a point where simple things hold a great deal of appeal, which is a  frequent subject in Jimmy’s songs.

Sometimes I want to spend an entire day perfecting a complicated and amazing recipe.  One with many steps that have to be orchestrated as carefully as a ballet performance – one false step and it’s ruined, but when flawlessly completed yields a thing of great beauty and flavor.  Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes not, but I always keep trying.  While I strive for baked goods that look good and taste good, taste is definitely most important.  Would that be function following form?

Anyway, there’s almost nothing simpler to make than a shortbread cookie.  Butter, flour, sugar, salt and vanilla – just five common ingredients.  Of course, you can add different flavors or flavors combinations. or some nuts if you like, but my favorite is usually the simple variety without any additions.  They will literally melt in your mouth.  So delectable!

It was another cool day here, so it felt like the perfect time to turn on the oven.

Just five ingredients.  Make sure the butter is room temperature, and sift the flour and salt together.

 

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cream the butter and sugar together until it’s combined.  For these cookies you don’t want the butter to be super light and fluffy, so as soon as they combine, you can add the vanilla, then stir a bit. Then add the sifted flour and salt and beat until combined.  It will be extremely crumbly.

Dump it out onto a pastry cloth and form it into a flat piece.  Wrap it up and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes.

 Here it is out of the fridge and ready to be rolled out.

 Sprinkle some flour on it as you’re rolling it out if it starts to stick to the rolling pin.\

You’ll want it about 1/2″ thick. You can reroll the dough and keep cutting out, just handle it gently.

Put them on a cookie sheet  – you can space them fairly close together since they won’t really spread out. Sprinkle with sugar (I like the chunkier sugar but couldn’t find it, so used regular, which is fine, too, just not as sparkly).  Bake for about 16 minutes until just beginning to brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.

These are perfect with a glass of milk . Mmmm. Enjoy!

Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature (no substitutions)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3-1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 35o°.

Cream butter and sugar together until combined.  Add vanilla and stir just until combined.

Sift the salt and the flour together and add slowy just until combined.

Dump the dough onto a pastry cloth or marble slab and form it into a flat circle (it will be very crumbly, but don’t worry!).

Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, then place on a pastry cloth or marble slab and roll out to about 1/2″ thick.  Cut out with the cookie cutters of your choice, however, you’ll want to use cutters that are fairly simple shapes. You can reroll the dough and keep cutting it out.  Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a rectangle (still about 1/2″ thick) and use a pastry cutter to cut out rectangles about 1″ x 2″.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 16 minutes, or until the cookies just start to brown around the edges.  It’s better to undercook than overcook these.

Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.  Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.  These also freeze well – use wax paper or parchment paper between the layers.

You can substitute other flavorings for the vanilla, and also make additions such as dried lavender or finely chopped nuts.  These are really fun to experiment with.


WOW! WOWSER! Philadelphia Cream Cheese ROCKS!

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

Just had to share my good news.  I just won a prize in the Real Women of Philadelphia (RWoP) cooking contest and I’m over the moon. I entered the contest on a whim, after reading an article on their Website about recipe development. Basically the article gave some simple but great tips about how to use what you have on hand.  I had some fruit that was not going to be viable much longer, some buttermilk and sour cream that were getting closer to the “use by” dates, and of course, I had gone out and bought some Philadelphia Cooking Creme. 

I actually hadn’t heard of Cooking Creme until I stumbled onto the RWoP site. Let me tell you, it’s really good. I’ve always loved to use cream cheese, and their Cooking Creme has the same great cream cheese tang.  It also comes in lots of different flavors, plus original. I have a favorite old recipe from back in the early 1980s that my in-laws used to make for every event.  We called it pudding dessert.  It was basically a baked crust, then a layer of pudding mixed with cream cheese and I think maybe milk, then a layer of Cool Whip and some chopped nuts. Surprisingly simple and really good.  I may have to make that one again now that it’s popped into my brain! 

Anyway, the contest goes for about 8 weeks and there are several permutations, so you can submit in whatever category best fits your skills.  For instance, the current contest is for appetizers – here’s the link: http://www.realwomenofphiladelphia.com/.  You may remember the fruit soup recipe I posted a couple weeks ago – that’s the recipe that won! They announce the winners in a fun way.  There are  four hosts. Each host, I think, is in charge of two weeks of the contest. The host (isn’t this weird, I used to think I was a feminist when I was younger, and now I have a hard time saying “host” in lieu of “hostess” because it just doesn’t sound right!  Sorry, off topic again, what a surprise!) for the side dish contest is a cute lady named Moni and she did a darling video.

Let me set this up for you.  I got home from work, and went to check my email.  I saw that I had about six “Friend” requests from gals at the RWoP site.  Which possibly should have tipped me off but didn’t.  I did wonder about it, but then I saw an email from the site indicating that the picture of my dish had been uploaded to the gallery, so I clicked on it. And yes, indeed, there was my picture, looking a little sad amongst all the really awesome pictures.  There were about 25 or 30 pictures on the page, and 787 pages. So then I thought I got all the friend requests because my picture was newer or something.  Then I went and got a cookie and some milk.  You know, I still think it’s important to have cookies and milk after school (work).

Then I noticed an email from RWoP announcing the side dish winner.  So I clicked on that link, and there was a little video, which I started up and watched while I ate my cookie.  There was Moni, in a SWEET Tiki bar. She told her audience she was going to announce the first Side Dish Contest Winner, but first she was going to tell everyone a little bit about this person.

She started by saying “she has a raging sweet tooth”. This made me laugh and think, “Amen sister, me too!”.  Then she said, “She loves vintage things – glassware, tablecloth, anything vintage”. And I started to get a weird feeling.  Then she said, “She LOVES Jimmy Buffet”.  And I got an even weirder feeling, which I had no time to process, because then she said, “Congratulations Kim Sundermeyer” at which point my cookie fell out of my mouth, I started jumping around and screaming, and the dogs got scared and left the room. I just won $500 for cooking!! I am so excited!  If I could do a cart wheel, I would!  I’ve so been wanting a better camera and this will help me to achieve that goal.  Although, I do understand that it’s really how you operate your camera that makes the difference!  Here’s a link to the video: http://www.realwomenofphiladelphia.com/post/our-first-anything-goes-side-dish-winner-is.

Now, all you home cooks out there – get your tushies right over to the RWoP Website and enter the contest!  Seriously, it’s a lot of fun and you could win!