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Friday, May 30, 2014

cookie madness

so as i continue along this crazy cookie journey, i come across all sorts of fun gadgets that would make some really cool designs.  there's an airbrushing system that i could use with various stencils to create fun patterns that would be a huge pain in the ass to attempt by hand.  and then there's something called a kopykake, which basically takes any design and projects it down onto a cookie or cake so that it can be easily recreated in frosting.  oh, but wait - there's also edible ink printers, which will print out any image on edible paper.  you then peel the backing off and apply it to wet frosting.  that's how bakeries are able to put photographs on cakes and such.

my favorite cake and candy supply shop actually offers that last one as a service.  for $10, they'll take your printed sheet and photocopy it onto the edible letter-sized paper.   i tried it out once a long time ago, for amber's baby shower cookies.

what's holding me back from picking up these fun cookie making toys?  well...each one of those things is a minimum of $200.  yikes.  so i'm just debating whether or not i'd actually be able to make the purchase(s) worth it.  i don't know.  WWYD?

i was asked to make some cookies for a bridal shower, which is always fun.  she showed me a couple of pictures for inspiration, and one of the cookies in the photos had a "quilted" design.  since i hadn't had a chance to try this technique out yet, i decided to go for it.

one of my favorite cookiers offers a tutorial for quilting, but it involves the use of that kopykake i mentioned earlier.  hmph.  so i poked around the internet a little more until i found another one that showed me how to do it without any fancy equipment.  i sat down with an edible ink marker and a ruler and got to work.

first, draw lines to create the design.

then, fill in every other diamond with frosting.

let them dry for a bit, and then continue working - going in order so that the newly filled shapes aren't touching each other.  this is what will create that "quilted" looking line.  this is after a couple of rounds.  also, next time i'll avoid the black marker.  i kept thinking the edges looked kind of grayish.

when they were all done, they looked like this:

i added some pink dots for a pop of color.  cool, right?  i was pretty proud of these.  most other cookiers use royal icing, which has a totally different texture and offers much more precise-looking designs.  but it tastes like butt and i don't love how hard it gets.  personally, i think the frosting i use is key in making the cookies taste good.  i don't know, i'm biased.

i got creative with my cutters again for the next set of cookies - a bouquet of flowers.  this is just a floral cutter with a palm tree trunk wedged into the bottom:

this tip is usually used for grass, but i thought it might work for the stems of the flowers.  because my frosting was a bit on the thin side, the lines melted together.  but i think it still worked out.

next, i plopped on big dots of pink frosting.  kinda looks like m&ms, huh?  and you still can't really see what i'm trying to accomplish here.

but then i took some stiffer frosting and a narrow tip and drew on little swirls.  then i was inspired and found a wide, narrow tip and added a ribbon onto the stems.  better, right?

along with the cakes, rings and plaques, i think this made for a pretty cool bridal shower cookie presentation.

hmmm.  maybe i don't need that kopykake after all.  heh.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

mother's day is every day

because there'd been so much going on at the beginning of may, the bean's class celebrated mother's day a couple of weeks later.  we were all invited to a fancy tea party in the classroom, and we were both super excited when the day finally came.

now since it was such a special occasion, everyone dressed up accordingly.  the bean asked me to curl her hair for her that morning, and since i couldn't figure out where i'd put my curling iron (it's been awhile, alright?), i decided to try something new.  the teen bought this contraption ages ago, and you're supposed to put locks of hair down the tube and then the hair dryer will twist it all up and create waves as the hair dries.

amazingly, the thing actually worked quite well on the bean's shoulder-length bob.  see?

when we got to school, there were lots of fun decorations in the alice in wonderland theme.

i love watching her interact with her little friends.  looking back on this picture in a few years is gonna be so awesome.

there were a couple of hours of schoolwork to get through first, and so when i arrived at 10 i was greeted at the door by the bean's teacher, and then was escorted to my seat by the bean.

tea time!  when in doubt, pinky out.

the teacher stood up and said a few words to welcome us all, and then called up the kids by row to make plates to serve to their moms.  it was just so stinking cute.

here's how i tipped my server.

the kids did a cute little skit for us, and then each of them went up to show off the picture they'd drawn of their mom and read a short paragraph they'd written.  i adore this part - listening to each kid complete the sentences "i love my mom because..." and "her favorite thing to do is..." is seriously the best thing ever.

i got off easy, while some moms totally got called out by their kids.  there were a few who said "her favorite thing to do is shop," with one who got specific:  "she loves to shop at nordstrom."  and the classic "her favorite thing to do is drink coffee."  i was hoping to hear "wine" or something racier, but it didn't happen.  heh.

one final gift - handmade garden stakes painted and decorated especially for us.

pretty awesome tea party, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

playing hooky

disneyland raised their prices yet again last week.  for a lot of folks, this comes as no surprise as the mouse house has sprung increases on us every year right around this time.  and while the ending numbers always sound ridiculous - like, a 1-day, 1-park pass is now $96, a deluxe annual pass went up to $519 - the actual increases are really rather minimal.  that 1-day/1-park pass was $92, the annual pass $499.

while this all sounds rather ridiculous - a family of four is shelling out some serious bucks for a day trip to the parks even before walking through the gates - i personally would still rather visit disneyland than other local amusement parks.  the happiest place on earth is beautifully maintained, constantly updated, has top-notch customer service with attention detail that is second to none.

that's not to say that i'm not always looking for a cheaper way to do things.  i mean, duh.  just jenn shared some awesome tips in a recent blog post about where to find discounted disneyland tickets, which is super helpful.  but guess what?  i managed to discover a different loophole that a lot of people haven't figured out - yet.

do you have a target red card?  i know, i know, SECURITY BREACH!!  but i love that thing.  5% off of everything in-store and online, plus free shipping with no minimums?  and you can select a local school to benefit from their donations, too?  psh, it's a no-brainer.  and check it out - you can use it to save on disney passes.  how?

well, that 5% off i mentioned?  like i said, it applies to everything in the store.  EVERYTHING.  and you know that rack of gift cards that's always somewhere near the front registers?  mmm-hmmm, honey.  those fall under the "everything" category.  and amongst the long list of retailers you can choose from?  DISNEY.  those gift cards can be used at disney store and at any of the parks.  so you buy a stack of those cards using your red card, get 5% off, take your happy ass over to your local disney store, and scoop up those tickets/annual passes/mickey merchandise.  i mean, hey - i know 5% isn't much.  but savings is savings, right?  it might be enough to cover a round o'churros for the family.

you're welcome.

last week, i decided to surprise the bean by telling her that it was a free dress day at school, getting her some mcdonald's breakfast and a book to distract her, and driving down to anaheim to play hooky for a day.  it's almost the end of the school year, and i wanted to see if we could squeeze in a fun day before the huge crowds descend upon the parks for the busy summer season.  amazingly enough, i managed to pull it off until we were almost all the way there.

we got stuck parking in a different lot, but this meant that we could walk into downtown disney and hop onto the monorail to get into disneyland.

she was still a little confused and asked me if we were going to have to get her a late slip from the office to get her into class.  ha!  when it finally sank in that she didn't have to go to school at all...

the ride through tomorrowland gave us a glimpse into what it looks like at the finding memo ride when all the water has been drained out.

and since we were right there, she decided to take me on a drive on the autopia ride.

fantasyland is her favorite land.

although she hadn't ever noticed the sword in the stone before.  i took her over there, where she inspected it carefully.

"wait.  so i grab it here - "

"uh, it doesn't come out, mommy."

"maybe if i...just..."  nope.

in toontown, we decided to pay minnie a visit at her house.

we hung out in toontown for awhile, and then as i glanced at my phone i saw that nanette had texted me to let me know she and em were on their way into the park.  this was another surprise for the bean, who had no idea she'd get to see her buddy again so soon after the elsa party for mini cee.

as always, it's so fun to watch them together.

because of her history lessons at school, the bean loves to see the "great moments with mr. lincoln" show.  i'm sure em was sitting there wondering what the hell we were doing there.  as for me, i may have taken a nice little nap during the show.

we decided to take the raft over to tom sawyer's island, where the girls had a ball running around and checking things out.

after that, we headed over to california adventure to ride em's favorite ride (the little mermaid). in the esplanade between the two parks, the beginnings of an olaf sand sculpture was coming together for the 24-hour party at the parks a couple of days later.

there was a murmur of excitement as we went through the turnstiles, and as we got into the park nanette noticed something - someone - that must've been the reason for all the hubbub.  miranda cosgrove, aka "iCarly" was there to play at the park.

it was really fun to be there with friends, and the time flew by.  before we knew it, it was time for me and the bean to head home.  with school the next day, i knew i needed to get her home to unwind and have some dinner before settling down for the night.  plus, i could tell she was exhausted from the long day.  since we have annual passes, we typically just go for a few hours at a time.

but before we left, just one more photo op with the mouse himself:

till next time, mickey!

squeezing in all the sightseeing

this was our NYC home for a whole week: it was one of only a few hotels that i could find that offered two beds in a room rather than, say, ...