Made by hands, expressed from the heart.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Next Mission: Valentines! Impossible?

I gotta say my foreign background sometimes get on my way. Valentines was coming, and what usually happens in Brazil, is exchange of gifts between people that are dating or the spouses. And that is it! So I had a big surprise when the teacher sent me a note that I needed to send a card for each child. A little more reseach later, I found out it would be nice to send a card for the teacher, and a little chocolate related gift. So between my my 2 kids, it would be 32 children to send cards, then cards and gifts for the first grade teacher, after school teacher, for the preK teacher, assistant teacher, school administrator, and something for the staff of the school. And for close friends too. With only Sunday afternoon to complete the task, not much money to spend, I was under pressure. So I had the materials needed bought on Saturday by my husband. He went to Michaels, and I had to go to work to come back at 10PM. I decided that for the teachers, an apple would be appropriate. So I dipped them in chocolate (used Wilton Candy Melts), microwaving according to the instructions . After cooled, some were decorated with already made sugar flowers, some with sprinkles. And the ones I liked were sprayed food coloring spray (called Duff cake grafitti), then I made hearts with red food coloring using a paintbrush. Then each one was placed in a little plastic box.
For the school staff I needed a bigger amount of treats, but I wanted heart shaped and chocolaty. So I got a package of Pillsbury cookie sugar dough, from the refrigerator section. Since I learned in the past that, this dough becomes too soft in the oven and doesn't hold its shape, I mixed 2/3 cup flour and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a couple of drops of red food coloring.. Then I could open with a rolling pin, use the heart shaped cookie cutter, and baked according to the directions. After cooled, the side of the cookies were dipped in the leftover melted chocolate, and sprinkled with colorful chocolate sprinkles. I put them in a box and wrapped a few individually for friends .
The cards for the teachers were made with blank cards I bought in bulk on sale after Christmas, and cut hearts, used ribbon, and other leftover material from my craft box. On the outside of the envelope, I drew a stamp with the kids
markers. And finally for the 32 cards for the children, and no more time or energy left... I bought a box of little cards and little stickers for them. Sorry, it was after 8PM and I am no longer productive after this time. I go to bed early. And I guess it looks handmade enough.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It is not dessert!

Every birthday a cake is essential.We can light candles, sing happy birthday and take pictures next to a pretty cake. But baked goods are very dangerous around me. I can devour huge amount of sugary calories, and see the results in the scale. I am far away to achieve moderation. If I have a slice, I have to eat the whole thing. The healthier versions I tried in the past never tasted or looked as good as the real. So for my husband's birthday, I decided to put the candles on our dinner entree, and made it with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I saw a picture once, and decided to give it a try. I followed this recipe of turkey and quinoa  MeatLoaf  but I believe any recipe will work. I divided them into 2 round 9 inch baking pans. After baked, I took them out of the pans, assembled like a cake, using mashed potatos from a box for filling and frosting. Then put the mashed potatoes in a pipping bag, use food coloring and decorate like a regular cake, with flowers
. To write on top, I used ketchup in a pipping bag with the smallest round tip, because it is slightly runny. Practice to write before. But that was it! It looked like a cake, we ate for dinner, and we had baked apples with nuts for dessert. For the sake of our waistline. PS: One last tip. If you want to skip the making meatloaf process, and make an individual cake, use hamburgers.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My friend Afua was having a baby girl, and I had to do something special. We've been working for 13 years in the same place, and went through weddings, birthdays, life dramas, house mortgages, and many life changing experiences together. Besides, I have never seen someone getting out of the house at 3:30AM, fully pregnant, to drive to the bus stop to get to work 2 hours later (5 days a week). And having another child at school, meaning homework, lunch bag and more laundry. So she deserved something nice. Since we live in opposite sides of the tri state area, meeting in one of the houses would be impossible.So I decided to make a surprise baby shower at work. But to have it done in record time, for our lunch break, required some help. To make a big centerpiece, I had co-workers rolling around 150 diapers (done on previous days, on our break, hiding from the pregnant lady), then I tied them together to make 5 different circles. I wrapped each one with pink paper, then stacked one on top of the other. I used purple crinkle paper to place on the areas that the diapers still showed, on top of the circles. Then finished with bows, colorful stickers and bright ribbons around.Hopefully you can get an idea from the picture. For easy snacks, I had this little flat pops, made from Nilla Wafers "glued" together with cake frosting. Then used food coloring pencil to draw flowers, babies and hearts. Used lollipop sticks, put a pretty bow and placed in a piece of styrofoam, finished with flower stickers. The chocolate cake pops I made following the instructions from Sounds easy enough? Now everyone can do a baby shower to impress!!

Show that you care!

Welcome to my blog! I hope here you get inspiration to make a special gift to someone, or get enlighted to make people feel special in a particular day. Today I attempted to make a group of people feel better, after a tough week. But with no extra money to buy a big cake, and just a couple of hours while I had the kids playing with their Legos, I caught myself opening all the kitchen cabinets and digging my craft boxes. I found a box of cake mix and chocolate frosting. So I started making cake. While it was baking, I reached for an empty can of oatmeal,then wrapped with pretty paper and nice ribbon (these items I get at Michaels when they are on sale). Then I cut two big flowers with another colorful paper, two circles in the middle, and a shiny button in the center. For the stem I used a long chopstick, but you can use a straw. After the cake was done and frosted, I put it in the freezer just to get a little hard (not brick hard). This just make it easier to cut into bite size pieces, easy to hold with your fingers. It also make it easier to travel, since I have to carry in a container in the train. I left in the freezer overnight, and took them with me in the morning. When I got to my destination, I put the pieces of chocolate cake, still cold, in the decorated oatmeal can, and put the big flower in the middle. And in the end, I think I succeded. They got a little dessert, and I got lots of smiles. And it took me only a few hours in one day, to show that I care.