Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Hot!: {Baking Cookies}

Yep, it is hot again today so of course it is Day 2 of

Today we decided to try our hand at BAKING!  Of course, our "oven" was the car.  What a fun project for a hot, hot day!  And all you really need is a car and a hot, sunshine day!

I really wanted to make chocolate chip cookies however "no chocolate chips".  I know, how can a house be without chocolate chips!  Guess we need to get to the store stat.  Working with what we had, we whipped up a batch of Betty Crocker sugar cookies.  I absolutely love the Betty Crocker cookie packages - so quick and easy and can be easily doctored up.  I like to add almond extract to the sugar cookies.  I also like to add chocolate chips to the peanut butter cookies.  Mmmmmmmm.  But I digress.

We mixed up the dough.  I used the cut-out cookie recipe as it uses less butter and I felt that with the low cooking temp, we would need a dry dough.  We pressed out our balls of dough into thin round cookies and for some fun, we added sprinkles.  I really wanted red, white & blue but alas, we were all out.

I placed the pan on the dashboard in full sunlight and went back in the house and set the timer for 30 minutes.  We went out and checked them every 30 minutes to see how they were coming.

30 minutes - starting to melt

60 minutes - starting to puff up a bit and you can see
some of the butter is melting out of the cookies.

It took our cookies about 2 hours to fully bake.  They don't really brown like they would in a higher temp oven, however you can tell they are done when the edges begin to feel a bit crispy and the centers start to look a bit dry.  When checking them, we tried not to open the car door too much so as not to let the heat escape.

The taste testers gave their sign of approval.  Of course, dipping the warm cookies in a nice cold glass of milk was in order!  Such a fun treat!

So here is my advice.

* This project takes a lot of patience, 2-3+ hours from start to completion (depending on the heat of your car).  If your kids are helping, make sure you have something to entertain them while they are "waiting".

* The cookies are soft and gooey when baked at such a low temp.  I think a chocolate chip cookie would be awesome as they are so good when they are warm and gooey.  Sugar cookies, in my opinion, are best when they are a bit crispier.  Pre-made refrigerator dough would be awesome!

* Use a good heavy metal pan that will hold the heat well as this helps the baking process.  Make sure to use pot holders when removing the pan from the car as it gets very warm.

* Line your baking sheet with parchment so the cookies don't stick to the pan.  The cookies are very soft when you remove them from the car.  I was able to pull the parchment off the baking sheet onto the counter to more quickly cool the cookies a bit so they could be picked up.  Bonus is it makes clean-up a breeze.

I hope you give this a try.  It was a lot of fun.  I have plans for another sweet treat tomorrow.  See you then!

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's Hot!: {Homemade Crayons}

It is HOT in Arizona!  Today's forecast is for 104+! 
The perfect kind of day for Day 1 of...

Today we made homemade crayons - IN THE CAR!  So, to give you and idea of how hot it can get in the car, I placed my oven thermometer in the car.  Check it out (and ignore how nasty dirty the thermometer is).

You read that right, just under 200 degrees and a little after I took this photo it was actually 200!  Crazy hot!

Park your car in full sunlight during the hottest part of the day!  Then, we started with the Crayon Box where mismatched, broken and lost crayons go to die!  Oh, wait, I guess they live to see another day after a little makeover (hee hee).

Next, we tore back the paper and broke them up into small pieces.  Then we placed them into our mold, a silicone ice cube mold we used a while back to make crayons in the oven.  NOTE:  Once you use these for crayons, that is all they are good for as there is a waxy residue that will not come off.

Then we placed them in the back window of the car.  Next time, I would put them on the front dash as, living in Arizona, our rear windows are heavily tinted which does take away some of the heat factor (front windows are not allowed to be heavily tinted).

Fortunately, the car was plenty hot.  Within an hour our crayons were mostly melted.  NOTE:  Quality of crayons makes a big difference.  The red and blue crayon I used were from a restaurant while the others were Crayola.  Crayola melts much easier and more consistently.  The others separated into wax and solids.

We brought them in and to speed along the solidification, I placed them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so.  Then we popped them out of the mold!

Here is my insight!

* Crayons make the difference.  If possible, use Crayola or at least mix your crayons.

* These can be made in a muffin tin as well.  Would be best to use a liner so as not to ruin your pan.

* Your temps do not need to be over 100 like here in Arizona.  During the heat of the day, make sure your car is parked in full sun-light and it is closed up tight.  It may take longer to melt but trust me, the crayons will melt even on an 80 degree day!

Have fun!  See you tomorrow for another fun {made it in the car} project!

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It's Hot! Hot! Hot! Summer Series!

It is HOT here in Arizona!  Like crazy blistering hot and trust me when I say, we will see nothing less than this kind of heat until September or October.  Ugh!!!!!  Major Ugh!!!!!

This is today's 7-day forecast - and last week
this read over 110 every day!  Yikes!

It is the time of year when you make sure you empty your car after every trip out. 

Leave a closed can or bottle of carbonated beverage - expect it to explode and make a MESS of your interior - everywhere will be covered with a sticky mess!  Ugh. 

Candy left on the seat - yep, an ooey gooey chocolaty mess (and no, don't try to eat it or save it either)! 

A lone ink pen or God forbid, a crayon!  Permanent damage. 

I have recently read to make sure you don't leave electronics in the car either.  The heat is deadly to batteries and the intricate wiring of our portable devices. 

Last, but definitely not least, don't leave your kids in the car for even a minute as the heat is deadly - and cracking the window makes no difference at all.

Well, knowing that the car is HOT!  I have decided to do a mini summer series on fun things you can do in a hot, hot car!

Armed with my family car, watch for some fun things that
you can do on a HOT, HOT, HOT summer day!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pool Ponchos!

I have been inspired!  I know, blogs do that to me all the time.  But really, I have been inspired!  Last week Jen at Tatertots and Jello featured Kyla from Funky PolkaDot Giraffe as part of her Summer Social series.  Kyla shared a tutorial for the most amazing Surfer's Poncho.

Well, we live in the desert - no beaches for miles - but we have a pool, so the Pool Poncho was born.  Using her basic idea, I whipped up a couple of ponchos for the kids and I love them. 

I found these beach towels on sale at Target for $4 each which is an awesome deal.  Kyla used a hand towel for the hood and pocket.  I just wasn't willing to pay more for the hood than for the body of the poncho so I waited.  Today while at Walmart I found a white bath towel for $2.77 - perfect!  The bath towel was large enough to make both ponchos plus I have enough left to make another one if I want.

The hood is made by simply tracing out the head piece on the finished edge of the towel.  She created her shape by tracing another hooded bath towel.  I simply took an 8.5x11 piece of paper and rounded off one of the corners.  I then placed it on the doubled up edge of my towel and cut about 1" out on the top and back and about 2" from the bottom to allow for seam allowance.  As you can see, my hood is plenty big but I think it is great as it gives plenty of room for growth.

Once cut out, using a zig zag stitch, sew the raw edges together. I further secured my frayed edges by running a second zig zag stitch over the fraying edges of the towel material.

To create the neck hole, fold the towel in half length-wise and then in half again to find the center point of the towel.  While still folded, I cut my neck hole.  She suggests using a shirt as a guide to how big to make this opening.  Mine got a bit big, I made it smaller on the second one.  The important thing is that you are able to get your child's head through the hole.

Next, find the center point of the back of the neck hole and mark with a pin.  Pin the right side of the hood to the right side of the towel starting at this center point and the center of the hood.  (I forgot to take a picture of this.)  Sew the hood to the towel.  The remaining raw edge of the towel should be folded over and a hem sewn.  This part is complete.

Now, to add a pocket.  Again, Kyla  used a sweatshirt pocket as a guide to create her pocket which had a slanted opening.  I decided to make mine more like a muff pocket.  I cut a piece of towel about 8.5 x 11 along one of the remaining edges of my bath towel.  I then hemmed the two ends of the pocket piece and pinned the raw edge, right sides together on the towel.  I placed this about 6"-8" below the neckline.

Using a zig zag stitch, sew the pocket piece to the towel.  I made sure to secure the ends real well by going forward and backward a couple of times at the corners since this is where the pockets will get the most pull.

Fold the pocket down and zig zag along the bottom of the pocket which is a finished edge of the towel.  Again, secure the corners real well.

That's it!  Done.  I highly recommend checking out Kyla's surfer poncho tutorial.  It is truly an awesome inspiration!  Thanks Jen and Kyla for a great summer project!  These will be perfect for swimming lessons too!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 Tips for Making a Rainbow Cake

I learned a few things when I made my daughter's rainbow layer cake a couple of weeks ago.  I found that these 5 simple tips made making this cake a breeze and just had to share.  The cake was a big hit and I encourage you to give it a try.


1. Liquid food coloring - this mixed in much easier and cleaner than I expected. I found the gel and paste color to difficult to mix in and left specs of intense color. I was afraid the liquid would not produce the bright, intense colors but it worked great and I really did not have to use that much color.

2. Freeze the cake - it is much easier and cleaner to work with frozen cake. You tend to have less crumbs, you don't have to worry that you will crack or break the cake layers when handling them and you can easily cut off the domes with a serrated knife.

3. Freeze layers of frosting - I actually learned this awesome tip from Angry Julie Monday and it is brilliant. Simply trace the bottom of your pan onto a piece of parchment or wax paper, flip it over and frost the interior of the shape. Place in the freezer. As you layer your cake you lay the frosting on top of the cake layer and peel off the paper. Genius. No crumby mess and gloppy goo!

4. Line your plate with parchment strips. Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of the cake and place your first layer of cake. Gently slide 4-6 strips of parchment under the edges of the cake. Make sure that none of the plate is showing. Frost your cake and don't worry if you are a bit sloppy. When done, gently pull the parchment out from under the cake. You should have minimal clean-up on the plate. You may need to go back and fill in a few spots along the bottom of the cake where the frosting pulled away but this makes for a very neat finished cake.

5. Use straws as support stakes. Cakes of this height and number of layers require supports to hold them in place and not allow the layers to slide. Straws work great. They are very easy to trim with a kitchen shears.

Here is my picture tutorial for making a rainbow layer cake.

2 white cake mixes and some food coloring (see tip #1, I ended up and used liquid coloring instead)

Mix up cake mix according to package directions, divide evenly into 6 bowls (1.5 cups each)
Stir in coloring - color of batter will be the color of the final cake.

Bake cakes, let cool.  Wrap each cake with plastic wrap and freeze.

Make your frosting.  I used this non-dairy whipped cream type frosting that a friend picked up for me at a Mexican store in South Tucson.  It was great since it was so light and not too sweet.  Normally I would use the Wilton butter cream frosting as it is always good too.  I know some people have used canned frosting as well so pick your favorite and mix it up.  You will need ALOT.  I used this entire quart container which when whipped up filled a huge mixing bowl and it was JUST enough.

Draw circles on some wax paper and frost with a generous layer of frosting and freeze.
Freeze enough frosting layers to go between each layer of cake.

Assemble cake by alternating layers of cake and frozen frosting layers.
If necessary, slice off the dome of each cake to ensure your cake is flat.

Line the edge of your cake plate with strips of parchment or wax paper so that when you complete your frosting, you can remove them and have a clean plate edge.

With a cake of this height, supports are necessary.
Straws are an easy solution as they tap in easily and can simply be trimmed with a kitchen scissors
(much easier than using a wood dowel).

Frost and decorate your cake.  It is okay to keep this simple since the
real surprise and beauty is when you cut into the cake.

Cut and enjoy!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Star Spangled Wreath!

With the 4th of July just around the corner, I wanted to try my hand at a wreath.  I have been loving the square and rectangular wreaths that so many have shown on their blogs. 

And well, since I didn't have a round wreath form, a simple plastic certificate frame was the perfect base.

Step One: 
Gather a thin frame and 3 or 4 fat quarters in a variety of colors and patterns.  Since I was going patriotic, I found a red, white and blue fabric that followed the theme perfectly.

Step 2:
Snip your fabric about every inch and tear your strips. I then cut my strips into 7" pieces which allowed me to get 3 pieces out of each long strip I tore.

Step 3:
Tie the strips onto the frame using a pattern to make sure you have even distribution of your colors around the frame.  The number of strips needed will depend on the size of your frame and the density you desire.  I used just over half of my 3 fat quarters which made approximately 36 strips of each color.  I like how it turned out.

Step 4:
Embellish!  I am on a "sewed paper garland" kick right now so of course that became the perfect embellishment!  Using a small star shape maker, I punched out a bunch of red and blue stars, sewed them together using white thread and tied them to the frame! 

I decided to give this one to my mother-in-law to brighten up their door!

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Camp Z! Play Tent

Big sister was at Girl Scout day camp this past week, so the boy and I have been able to spend some quality time.  One of our highlights was him getting to play Wii for over an hour without anyone (namely big sister) telling him it was her turn or informing him that that was not how you do it.  He was in heaven. 

While he was playing, I was cruising the blog scene and came across a fabulous idea from Cakies on Grosgrain for an amazing A-Frame Tent!  After checking the wood supply in the garage, I loaded up the kid and headed out to Home Depot for some wood and JoAnns for some fabric.

Rubyellen from Cakies offers an amazing tutorial in her guest post as part of the Free Pattern Month at Grosgrain. I will touch on the basics.

4 - 48" 1x2 finish boards (not too rough)
1 - 48" 3/4 dowel
1 - 3/4" paddle bit for your electric drill
Measuring tape
pencil or marker
Roughly 2.5 yard fabric - finished piece is 44"x85"

I had Home Depot cut my boards to size for me.  At home, I measured down 5" (she suggests 6") because my piece of fabric was slightly larger than needed.  Due to the width of my fabric, I have a 7" folded hem.  I actually like the deeper hem since my fabric is a printed upholstry fabric that is rather plain on the interior.

The fabric cover is roughtly 44" x 85".  Once you have hemmed each side, simply attach a 5" piece of elastic that has been folded in half to each corner.  This elastic is what hold the tent to the wood structure.

I love that the whole thing can be pulled apart and stored away as needed.  But for tonight, Z has invited Big Sis to sleep in the tent in his room.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Upcycled Super Girl Cape

The girl is LOVING Girl Scout Camp this week.  Everyday has a theme much like spirit week at school.  Yesterday was crazy hair day and with no less than 7 pony tails, she looked adorable  - we love crazy hair days!

Today is Super Girl Day!  The girls are encouraged to dress up like super heros.  She wanted to be Super Tree Girl so brown pants, green shirt and of course a super girl cape!  There was no fighting this super hero on the fact that today it will be 105 degrees and pants may not be the best idea!  She is a tree and trees are brown so long pants it was!

I decided to whip up a Super Girl pink cape for her yesterday while she was gone! The challenge was fabric.  I headed to Savers to see what I could find!  Success, the sleepwear aisle had ample choices.  I found a perfect pink satin robe for just $1.99!  Score!

All I did was cut the back panel out and sewed a simple rolled edge.  I am not a great seamstress so it may not be pretty but the finished project is awesome and the girl (and the boy too) love it!  I guess we will be heading back to the thrift store to find a blue or red robe or night gown so I can make one for the boy too!  In the mean time, he is running around with the pink one - just don't tell his sister (or his Dad)!!!

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Sugar Bee Crafts Take-A-Look Tuesday