Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the holiday that marks the unofficial start of summer in the states.  But more than that, it is a day set aside to pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service of our country. 

When I was a child we traveled to Pennsylvania every year on the Thursday or Friday before Memorial Day to open up our lake side cottage and prepare for a weekend of cook outs and family time.  And on Monday morning we drove the short distance down the road to the cemetery to decorate the family graves, including that of my grandfather, who served in both World Wars.  I am so proud of him and the service he gave to our country. 

I hope that everyone takes a moment today to remember those who have served throughout the history of our country so that we may continue to live free.

And I hope that everyone is surrounded today by family and friends and happy times!

I decorated my cookies with some colored sugar for the holiday buffet.  It's a beautiful sunny summer-like day here.  I hope that it is in your corner of the world, too!

xoxo, a.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Butter cream frosting as filling.

This is a VERY sweet butter cream frosting recipe.  It is also my favorite!  But any frosting will work well as a filling for these yummy cookies. Also, last week's marshmallow filling would be awesome in these.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, combine a one pound bag or box of confectioners sugar and 1/2 cup (one stick of butter).  Using the paddle attachment, blend until crumbly, about one minute.  Add 4 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and 2 teaspoons of vanilla and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes more.

Use a knife or a spatula to spread on a cookie, and top with another one.  Or leave them open face, and eat it with a fork, like a slice of cake.

I'll be back tomorrow with a decoarated version for a holiday party.

Making Whoopie ~ Again.

I love that it's Sunday ~ Family Day ~ and not the end of the weekend!  Three day weekends are just about the best invention ever, don't you think? 

Another fabulous invention is the flavor of red velvet.  Red velvet filled cookies = heaven on a plate!  This particular recipe is very cocoa heavy and therefore pretty dark.  You have to squint to see the red in them!  But if you would like yours to be more red in color you can use less cocoa (as little as 1/4 cup) to brighten them up.  In my world less chocolate never makes much sense, but that's just me.  You do what makes you happy. :-)

Okay, here we go.  You will need:  2 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 ounce red food coloring and 1 cup buttermilk.

Start by placing a rack in the center of your oven and preheating it to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the first five ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.  In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and sugars on low until just combined, increase the speed to medium and beat for about 5 minutes to a fluffy and smooth consistency.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Add the vanilla and food coloring and beat until blended.

Add half the dry mixture and half the buttermilk and beat until blended.  Scrape down the bowl, add the remaining dry mix and buttermilk and beat until completely combined. 

Drop about two tablespoons of the mixture onto one of your cookie sheets for each cookie.  Space them about two inches apart. 

Bake for about 10 minutes, until they spring back when pressed gently in the center.

Let them cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet---

Before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

I'll be back in a little while with a wonderful filling recipie for you.  Until then, happy baking!

xoxo, a.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Holiday Weekend ~ Fill In The Blank Friday

Thank you Lauren, for another week of these great blanks!  Visit the little things we do... to read what some of the other  participants have to say.

1.   If I could get away somewhere for the weekend I would go       to the beach, any beach   and I would bring      just Bob and the puppies, so that we could relax and enjoy the time away exactly the way we want to   .

2.  Something I often rant about is     people who have a sense of entitlement and who think that I, my significant other, and/or the world owe them something for no reason other than that they exist. Also, anyone who refuses to accept responsibility for themselves and likes to blame everyone and everything else for whatever is going wrong in their lives makes me crazy!  .

3.  One item I need to have in my fridge at all time is     Chobani yogurt. I am addicted to it and must have it EVERY DAY!  .

4.  My "life-saving" product is   a good moisturizer  .

5.  A friend is someone who     knows all of your secrets, keeps them, and does not judge you for them. Even (Especially!) when you judge yourself  .

6.  If I could write my own blank it would be       mine were just used a few weeks ago, and I will probably share some to be used again, so I better keep them to myself for now:)   .
7.  My favorite kind of art is       photography. I love it because it is about what the artist sees and how they choose to share rather than how they can portray what they see or feel with paint or clay  . 
I have been thoroughly enjoying Creativity Boot Camp, and sad that it is almost over.  The inspiration I have received from this experience has been awesome!  I will be revisiting the posts and challenging myself to dive deeper into the assignments in the weeks to come.  Today's quote was used in the course text for inspiration, and inspire it does!  I hope that you agree. 

“I am learning to write & speak of my true feelings for myself, that’s how I can let go sooner & love fuller. It’s a mixture of speaking up and speaking in, reaching out and reaching in” ~Sabrina Ward Harrision

xoxo, Anita

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tea Party Give Away

The Tea Party Mollie has been hosting over at Wild Olive all week has been fantastic, don't you think?  I love sponsoring her blog; she is so creative, and I learn from her all of the time.  It also gives me the opportunity to 'meet' many of her lovely readers, which is absolutely the best part!

So let's get to the details of the give away I have for you!  I have assembled a collection of tea and embroiders supplies:

For your tea drinking pleasure, you will receive a box of Tazo Organic Chai Tea, a bottle of organic honey, and a handmade teabag holder containing two bags of Lipton Tea. 

And so that you can embroider some of those beautiful designs Mollie has been sharing, you will also receive two tea towels, an embroidery hoop and needle, and a dozen skeins of DMC floss in some of their newest colors.  The names alone spur my creativity:  apricot, raspberry, antique blue, dusty rose, aquamarine and light copper, to name a few.

And now for the really fun part ~ at least for me, because I love to give stuff away!  After Mollie chooses one recipient of this give away on her blog, I am going to choose another one right here!  To enter, simply  be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post.  That's it!

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

xoxo, Anita

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Family Day // Marshmallow Filling

I hope that your Sunday "Family Day" has been just awesome!

As promised, I am back with the recipe for a filling for our whoopie pies.  The classic filling is marshmallow, and that is what we are going to make today.  I hope that you love it!

Your cookies are cooling on a rack:

To prepare the filling, you will need 1 1/2 cups Marshmallow Fluff, 1 1/4 cups Crisco, 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.  Combine the Fluff and Crisco in your mixing bowl and begin to mix on low.  Increase to medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add the vanilla and the sugar and beat until incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed and beat until fluffy, about three minutes more.

Using a spatula, spread the filling onto a cookie half.  Top with another half.  Eat, and enjoy!

 Both of the recipes today came from this book:

Next week, we are going to use some of the recipes in it to make cookies with a patriotic twist for a Memorial Day picnic.  I hope that you will join me!

xoxo, Anita

A new blog feature // A cookie by any other name...

I don't know about you, but for me Sundays have always been a family day.  I have a picture in my mind of myself wearing a stunning vintage dress ~ complete with pearls, high heels and apron of course! ~ serving a perfectly prepared meal to the family members gathered around my dining room table.

In reality, with everyone having such busy schedules, that pretty picture does not come to life too often.  Holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas offer some variation of family gathered, though pearls are not always involved.  But family days always have one thing in common ~ good food!  Whether assembled prettily around the dining room table or sitting at the kitchen counter while watching TV, one thing my family loves to do when we gather is to eat! 

I have decided to start a new Sunday feature here on the blog to share with you some of the foods that I enjoy preparing for my family and friends.  I hope that you like it!

Whether you call it a scooter pie, a gob or my personal favorite; whoopie pie, these filled cookies are delicious!  So without further ado, let's make whoopie!

For the chocolate cookies you will need 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons (room temperature) unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons Crisco, 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 cup milk.

Position a rack in the center of your oven, preheat it to 375 degrees, and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar on low speed until just combined.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another two minutes.

Add half the flour mixture and half the milk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated, scrape the side of the bowl and add the remaining flour mixture and milk and beat until completely combined.

Using a spoon (for the large cookies that I made, a two tablespoon measure works perfectly!) drop the batter onto the baking sheet.

Bake them one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes.  They are done to perfection when they spring back when pressed gently in the center.  Allow them to cool for about 5 minutes and transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

I will be back later today to make the filling and to share a link to the fun book this recipe came from.

I hope that you are having a wonderful, family filled Sunday!!

xoxo, a.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday. Rocks.

1.   People always tell me I look like       ~oh my. so many over the years! Mackenzie Phillips when she was on 'One Day At A Time', Erin from 'The Waltons' and Maureen O'Hara the most often. And my DC friends like to call the mister and I Barbie and Ken   .

2.  Friends don't let friends     drive drunk. I lost a very close friend to this, and feel so strongly about it. Also, I don't think that we should ever let a friend leave our company hurt or angry. Fix it, because you never know when the last time you will see them might be  .

3.  A sunny day is perfect for     going on leisurely walks and for laying out in your backyard reading magazines while drinking iced tea (this is Lauren's answer, and too perfect to change!)   .

4.  My favorite accessory is   my engagement ring. I fully intend to wear it all the rest of my life  .

5.  If I could afford it I would     have a lake house. I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood summers in the one my Nana built, and I miss it so much   .

6.  The cure for boredom is       to start moving. A walk, yoga, or a spin on my stationery bike cure my boredom and get my creative energies going, too!   .

7.  I am currently "in like" with       Chobani YogurtTazo Chai Tea with organic honey, my new Mini Diana, and wearing vintage dresses everywhere!    . 
To read a fantastic collection of Friday fill ins, head over to the little things we do...
I am finding my inspiration these days from taking part in 'Creativity Boot Camp'. This quote was shared with today's lesson:
“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.” ~William Faulkner

I hope that you are finding ways to bring your inner artist to life, friends.

xoxo, a.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Creativity Boot Camp

When I signed up for the two week  'Creativity Boot Camp', I had no idea what to expect.  All I knew was that I wanted to take my creativity to a level that I couldn't get to by myself.  I constantly read and learn from and become inspired by blogs and books and e-courses, but I was still looking for something more.  How thrilled I am to have found it here!  It was the simplest of components that I was missing; the input of participants like myself.  I find that I am really enjoying reading the thoughts of my partners on this journey, and that I look forward every day to seeing what our challenge is, how others feel about it, and how it works out for them. 

My solitary journey from corporate to creative is a tiny bit less solitary, thanks to this amazing opportunity.  And it's not too late to sign up yourself if you are looking to have your creative muscles challenged and to make some connection in the process.  The course started on Sunday and will run for two weeks, but the registration is still open, and the content will be accessible for a couple of months after it's over.  If you want to know more, click on the link above.

I made these pretty journals for myself this weekend.  I call the one on the left my "Sunshine and Joy" journal.  I keep it near my bed to remind me to do my 'stream of consciousness' writing first thing in the morning, as soon as I (and the sun) are up.  'Morning pages' are part of the first day's challenge in camp. 

Happy creating, friends!

xoxo, a. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

21 Days of Challenge 365, Summarized

Between my unplanned blogging break thanks to my allergies and bloggers 'break' last week, I have not been writing my weekly "Challenge 365" post.  Here are some highlights of the daily photos I have taken from April 26 through May 17.  If you would like to see all of the pictures, click here to be taken to my Flickr page.

In the yard.

Sweet baby.

Derby Day.

In the 'hood.

Favorite flower in my favorite color.

Date night in vintage.

Storm damaged tree.

Are you working on a 365 photo project?  Or perhaps you completed one?  If so, share a link in the comments area; I would love to see!

Last week, thanks to the fact that my mister occasionally 'forgets' to lug his laptop home from the office and borrows mine instead, I was treated to a rather extensive software update by the IT department where he works.  This update included *gasp!* Photoshop CS5.  I am beyond excited to learn how to use it!  I bought myself an awesome book to help with this challenging task.  So glad that I made it to kindergarten the day they taught sharing!  Amazing software in exchange for letting the mister use the laptop from time to time is a pretty sweet deal.

I hope that you have a sweet deal in your day, dear friends!

xoxo, a.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Instax Hoop

In looking for a fun way to display some of my Instax Mini photos, I came up with this:

I just sewed some tiny clothes pins onto an embroidery hoop art piece and voilà!  A pretty as a picture display of pretty pictures!  This one is hanging on a door in my kitchen.  I am contemplating which door to adorn next as I write this.

To make one for yourself all you need is a 12" wooden embroidery hoop and a scrap of fabric to cover it.  Embroider something in the center if you are so inclined, or attach a few more clothes pins there instead.  I used 11 mini clothespins, which are sewn onto the fabric.  You can actually fit 1 or two more if you would like the pictures to overlap a bit more, or 1 or 2 less to space them out a bit more.  Play around to get the look you love, and display those pretty pictures!

Happy Saturday, friends.

xoxo, a.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Welcome Back, Blogger!

It has been a long and frustrating week for those of us who blog on the "Blogger" platform!  We have seen comments, photos and in some cases whole posts disappear. While some of these have been recovered, I know that some are still floating out there in never never cyber space, and perhaps will not reappear at all.

I want to thank those of you who commented on my now comment-less but thankfully still present 'Beautiful Mothers' post!  I did get to read a few via email, and one kind reader even tweeted me instead!  Thank you to everyone.

I have been busy this week with a computer upgrade, including Photo Shop.  I am so thrilled, and can't wait to use it to take my blog to another level.  After 5 1/2 months of random blogging on a journey to find my voice, I am ready to begin some new features, including more sewing and crafts, and even some personal musings so that we can get to know each other better. 

On another front, I am also getting ready to take the shop further by starting to offer some clothing, which will be added over the upcoming weeks.  Feel free to stop by and browse! 

While on that subject I would like to share with you that while I will occasionally blog about the shop and items that I include in it, that is not the purpose or even one of the main goals of my blog.  I hope that you will read and enjoy my blog and never feel that it is a sales pitch of any kind.

Have a wonderful day!

Hugs, Anita

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fill In The Blank Friday

1.   What I love most about my home is       "who I share it with" - Tad Carpenter via 'Fill In The Blank' author Lauren at the little things we do... blog. Totally stealing this quote because it's perfectly true!   

2.  I'm excited because,    I'm going to the Virginia Cup horse races tomorrow for derby day festivities with wonderful friends.  It has become a tradition for Bob and I, and one of our first summer season outings every year. I love, love, love it!   

3.  My preferred method for blowing  off steam when I'm frustrated is     to vent to my Mister. He has a great deal of patience with my crazies! If it is during his work day I will run, do yoga or clean, (until he comes home and I can vent!)   .

4.  Currently I am craving   a grilled cheese sandwich. So much about this gourmet delight is not allowed in my current eating plan!  

5.  The thing I love most about my mom is     Oh my.  The answer to this question could fill a book! I lost her while I was still in college, and have always felt fortunate that we became so close before that happened. All of the issues that we had when I was in high school went away when I went away, and we became the mother and daughter who spoke every day (pre cell phone era!); true best friends. She really GOT me, and it was the best  .

6.  If I was going to write a book about my life, the title would be       "Everything The Hard Way", because that is how I have learned what little I know   .

7.  If I were to eat one thing for the rest of eternity it would be        an organic salad made with baby greens, fresh vegetables, berries, some shredded Locatelli cheese and grilled salmon drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Always satisfying and energizing!   

I have missed blogging this past week!   The allergy attack I had really wiped me out, but I am much better today.  I slept through the night last night for the first time in three weeks!  I think the dog fur has been completely eliminated from my house, the allergy meds seem to be keeping the pollen from bothering me, and I have an appointment soon with an allergist that comes highly recommended and who I hope can help me rebuild a tolerance to shedding four legged creatures.

I have big projects planned that I will sharing here soon, and in the upcoming summer months.  I hope that you will enjoy them right along with me!

For a bit of inspiration on a Friday, here are some words (I would credit them, but I don't know who they belong to!) that I have been using as a status update on Facebook this week.  They helped to inspire me, and hope they will do the same for you!

Be true to your word.  Respect all living things.  Listen more.  Welcome change.  Be unafraid to grow.  Quiet your mind.  Open your heart.  Extend your hand.  Love with everything you've got.

xoxo, a.