Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tennessee Apple Stack Cake

So good.

I hosted a book club meeting a couple of nights ago. We had read On Agate Hill by Lee Smith, which I absolutely loved. It follows the fictional life of Molly Petree through letters, diary entries, school reports, court documents, and such. If you like historical novels, specifically Reconstruction era Southern lit, you should at least take a look at the Amazon listing! The book reminded me of sifting through material on or trying to piece together enough information to get to know an ancestor.

Anyhoo, sometimes at our meetings we try to share a meal that somehow relates to the book. It's a creative way to make another connection with the story. So, after our southern barbecue fare, we feasted on Apple Stack Cake. It was delish! But here are the changes I made to the original recipe, along with my modern kitchen revelations.

First of all, the recipe called for dried apples. Ok, did you know that it's actually kind of difficult to locate dried apples in the grocery store these days? I remember back in the day, dried fruit came in 4 varieties: raisins, prunes, apricots, and apples. Now it's cranberries, bananas, mangos, pineapples, blueberries, papayas, yada, yada, yada. No apples. Not at my local Fry's anyway. So I figured, "What the heck? Why not just use fresh apples? I mean, I was just gonna reconstitute those dried apples anyway." So that's what I did, after I calculated that 2 ounces of dried apple=1 pound of fresh apple. I'm pretty sure this recipe was developed back in the day when fresh apples weren't available year round, and everybody canned and preserved and dried their own harvest. Well, I don't have an apple tree, so I rely on my local food storage unit down the street, also known as the grocery store. Let them pay the utility bill to store my food; that's hubby's motto.

Next step, simmer the apples, then mash them and add a whole lotta spices and brown sugar. About halfway into this process (I know, sometimes I can be a little slow) I realized I was just making applesauce. For heaven's sake, why didn't I just buy applesauce in the first place?! Well, in the end I did run back to the store to get some applesauce, because I was afraid (and rightly so) that I hadn't simmered enough apples.

Okay, on to the cake part. These were basically 8-inch round gingerbread cookies. I was able to bake two at a time. The recipe directed me to make 8 layers, but I wasn't careful in the divvying up department so I only wound up with 6. Interestingly enough, the amount of layers indicates your popularity. Back in the day, neighbors would each bring a cake layer to the party. The more friends you had, the more layers your cake would have! Well, I made all my own layers, so I don't know what that says about poor little pitiful me.

So you just stack these all up with applesauce in between each layer, leave it in the fridge to soften up, and 8 hours later it is absolutely scrumptious. It was even good the next morning for breakfast, which is what you see in the picture above. Later in the day, it was still tasty, but beginning to border on gooey and mushy, so we just put it out of its misery and finished it off. This was a fun cake to put together (although, come to think of it, I've seen similar recipes using applesauce and graham crackers; now that would be easy!) and I'll probably make it again sometime next fall during apple season!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Arizona Snowflakes

Since we don't get much snow around these parts, sometimes we just have to manufacture our own. Here is one of the paper variety.

All folded up

and unfurled in its glory.I finally got myself a decent hole punch. It has a long reach, and more importantly, sharp edges. No more dealing with the hanging chad!

Random Fact: Did you know there is a town in Arizona named Snowflake? Yuppers, there is. Named after Mr. Snow and Mr. Flake. I'm not even kidding. In fact, one of Mr. Flake's descendants currently serves Arizona as a US Congressman--Jeff Flake. Maybe the Big Guy will meet him around town. I hear tell it snowed in DC today. Not that I got a phone call or anything. Nope, somebody is too busy playing football on the National Mall to call his sweet mother. And here I thought he went to Washington to help Mr. O solve all our woes.
Ok, back to business.
Here is some flaky felt.
Of course, everyone knows no two snowflakes are the same, which means lots of designing fun for me and Mr. Penquin.

Each snowflake gets paired with a light blue backing
and then they are stitched together with blue thread on top and white thread in the bobbin.

Random Fact #2-- Brian has an announcement: "I have chosen my life project." Really? Can you do that when you're only 11? "I will build my own car, using parts from all different cars." Good luck with that. I guess it's a life LONG project.
Gentle Reader,
Please pardon my sporadic outbursts of unrelated material. When my posts center on the domestic arts, my less feminine constituency become restless, and, dare I say it? Bored. I cannot afford to lose two of my most faithful readers--this gentleman and that. Consequently, I must occasionally throw out little crumbs of amusing tidbits for them. I do apologize.
Vincent Price, you slay me.
Vincent is not my son, as that would make me incredibly old, and well, I'm old enough, thank you very much. World domination, how appropos.
(sporadic outburst, I'm so sorry)

Where were we? Oh yes, snowflakes. In Arizona.
Now for the fun part! After it's all stitched up, you cut away the excess to reveal the flaky beauty. You know, kinda like that Michaelangelo dude and his block of marble.
I was able to whip up this flurry thanks to Molly over at purlbee. Pink snowflakes. Who knew?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Second Revenge of Fire Guy Again

This is Brian's latest comic book. Maybe his next step will be his own zine. (That link is for you, Mom.) And okay, I'm just gonna be upfront with it. The kid is experimenting with language, if you know what I mean, trying to be edgy in his own 11-year-old way. Never fear, no swear words were employed in the creation of this comic, although he dances right up to the line.

Here's the frame-by-frame rundown. The bad guy's bullets are bouncing off Super Dad.

Another day saved

He hears a cry for help off in the distance
Super Dad meets his nemesis Fire Guy. FG is not exactly happy. "Oh *#$!," he exclaims. "It's you!"
I'm going to kick your
astronaut food! Hee hee!

"Holy Shin Surgery!" Fire Guy suddenly realizes Super Dad means business.

Well, as I'm typing this out and following along in the comic book, I realize I've left out a frame. That would be when Super Dad picks up Fire Guy and heaves him into the sky.
And, as we all know, what goes up, must eventually come down. This is an aerial shot of FG. Notice the oil tanker below him. "Noooooooooooo!"


The End

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy 80th, Grandma Jan!

Last October, these three brothers put their heads together and plotted out a little surprise for their mother's 80th birthday.
Kurt from North Carolina, Erik from California, and Ian from Arizona all converged upon the octogenarian's house on the same day and took her out for some birthday grub.

Every mother's dream--to have all her babies together again!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

He Said She Said

He said:
"It makes me happy when I walk in the garage and see this."
(If you could see the before picture which exists only in our memory, you would appreciate his new shelves even more.) Hubby took advantage of one of the many store fixtures sales in the area, and finally got himself some industrial shelving.
She said:

"It makes me happy when I lounge on the couch and gaze at my new shoes."

(Sssshhh! Don't tell anybody I have my feet on the couch!)

These are seriously the most comfortable non-tennis shoes I have ever worn.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I sent my button swap off today! I had way too much fun with all this button goodness.These are the covered buttons I made and then sewed onto the paint chips, just like a real card of buttons you buy in the store.

I also used a paint chip to make this sweet gift tag. I just punched a big hole in each square and glued a button in the middle. Easy and cute!

I had double sided cardstock left over from another project, so I decided to make some fun packaging. The matchbox holds the actual buttons for the swap, and the puffy box holds a cute little button ring. I found the templates for the matchbox and the puffy box here, along with templates for several other interesting boxes. And although my ironing board works admirably as a backdrop for my little projects, I'm really looking forward to building a do-it-yourself lightbox!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr. Radcliffe Goes to Washington

If you follow my Twitter stream at all, you know what we've been working on for the last few days--getting this big goofball ready for his semester in Washington, DC.

He'll be completing an internship for the grand finale of his college career, which will hopefully transition nicely into some sort of career path. Well, that's the plan anyway!
He may be all dressed up in his fancy sport coat and trousers (he informed me just recently that gentlemen wear "trousers," not "pants," and they most definitely do not wear "britches")
but he's still just a big kid!

(And yes, I confess, that is my extreme mess on the dining room table!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hey! You Got Your Peanut Butter on my Chocolate!

I'm testing out my Valentine chocolates. I saw these online and figured I could probably make them at home, which is a good thing because chocolate that gets mailed to Arizona doesn't often weather the journey very well.

I started with some basic chocolate chips...
which I melted in the microwave.

Then I spread the melted chocolate in the plastic mold. Yes, I know this is the cheater way of making truffles, and all you true chocolatiers are having conniption fits just about now, but this is what works for me. Sheesh, even the kid at Michael's who sold me the mold had an opinion on how to properly create a truffle.

After I spread the chocolate around, I held it up to the light to make sure I got good coverage. Wouldn't want that yummy filling to seep through! Then I popped the whole thing in the freezer to harden.

Once the shell was nice and firm, I filled those little babies! First, a little dab of straight up peanut butter...followed by a marshmallow fluff chaser.
I kind of spread the filling a little bit with my fingers, because I sort of overfilled them a little bit, but that just meant more licking for me! Wait, that sounds a little unsanitary. Okay, well, um, I spread the filling a little bit with my very clean finger, then I licked my finger, then I sanitized my hands before proceeding to spread the filling a little bit with my finger which I then licked...oh, who am I kidding? I've got ten fingers. I used them one at a time, then licked them, then washed up and wiped my mouth when I was all done.

Back to the truffles...I put more melted chocolate on top, which is really the bottom, and then put the whole shebang back in the freezer. Actually, the garage freezer, because everyone in the family knows that's the colder freezer; the one in the house gets opened too often because around here somebody is always standing in front of an open fridge/freezer looking for something else to eat. You'd think I never feed them, but I've got the dirty dishes to prove that I do!

Once the truffles completely chilled, I popped them out of the mold. Mmm-mmm-mmm!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Crafting Japanese

Currently I'm completely obsessed with Japanese craft magazines. I am not, however, obsessed with paying ten bucks or so to have one shipped to me from Japan. So I'm on the prowl in the used bookstores around town. Here's what I've found so far:

This is actually a book, not a magazine. And it's written in English, which is like a little bonus surprise. It's amazing that felt can actually make your mouth water, but it can! There are some seriously cute sweets in this book. I'm just not sure that I need felt donuts and such laying around the house reminding me that I really really want a donut, a real one!

Look, felt chocolates! Perfect for the diabetic in your life.

This is my favorite project in the book, although they're not really sweets...happy french fries! I crack up every time I see them. You have to admit, the tic tacs are pretty darn cute too.

Well, one book and I'm hooked. I need more. This is where my trusty sidekick comes in. Sometimes I just call her Mom. Since she lives in San Diego where there are actually Japanese markets, I sent her on a quest for Cotton Time, the magazine I most covet. Apparently, I am not the only one who covets this particular periodical, and so the market was sold out. Ok, well, they only get in 4 copies of each issue, but at least you don't have to pay shipping!

Being the resourceful Depression Baby that she is, she located a used bookstore right next to the market that was loaded with just the sort of publication we were looking for. Here are two of them:

The beauty of these magazines is the $3.50 price tag. And yes, they are written in Japanese, which, no, I cannot read, but yes, the pictorial directions are very detailed, just like every other obsessed crafter has mentioned on their blog, and yes, I am going to make a project or two (or three) using these directions. (Just a little aside: one of my kid's swim coaches is Japanese, so if I get really stuck I can ask him for a quick translation.)

And now for some of the cute projects that have caught my eye...

Coffee filter holders (I won't be making these though, because I have one of these now.)

Check out the teacup patchwork on this bag.

I love the lace and linen look on this bag.

These patchwork bags look fun.

Is this not the sweetest flower purse? Love it!

I'll leave you with a little Valentine goodie.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

I'm participating in a button swap this week, as in you give me 10 of your coolest buttons and I'll give you 10 of mine. So I've been sifting through my buttons over and over, trying to choose the 10 most giveable buttons. A couple of them are impossible to part with. And one I can't even use in a craft of my own, much less give it to a complete and total stranger! This sweet little ladybug has been in my mom's button tin forever, and now it lives in mine. Fortunately for my button buddy, I found a replica to send to her, so she can have her own ladybug in her own button tin.
I also made a few covered buttons to send. Love the cupcakes!
I actually intended to make little tiny red and white mushrooms, as you can see from my little prototype. I'm glad I changed my mind; cupcakes are much less poisonous and yummier all the way around!
A quirky little button ring is going in the package too. I love the button ring I got from Nikki; I wear it almost every day and get the funniest comments about it. People either totally ignore it (which is kinda hard to do, since it's BIG) or ooh and aah over it. I made a few (okay, about 10) rings for fun, and now my girls want some. One of their friends has informed me she likes purple, you know, just in case I want to make her one too!
If you need a quirky button ring so people can ignore your weird taste in jewelry or admire your totally cool creativity and fun sense of style, go here. Lots of fun stuff!