Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Cookies: Ginger Snaps with White Chocolate

One of the big holiday traditions in my house growing up was Christmas cookies. My mom would bake at least 10 different kinds of cookies and we would eat them through out the holiday season. It was always fun to have all the different options to choose from for assuaging my cookie cravings. (If you didn't know, I have a pretty sizable sweet tooth.) I love to bake but can never seem to get my act together to bake that many cookies. Plus, I am not sure I need that many cookies in my house or else it could be bye-bye waistline! (or maybe it is "hello, bigger waistline?")

Every year I am invited to at least one cookie exchange and this year, for the first one, I made Ginger Snaps with a White Chocolate Drizzle. I like ginger snaps because they are very "Christmasy" and also fairly simple to make.

I apologize for a lack of photos but I had this really cute & helpful sous chef assisting me and he was not favorable to me stopping to take pictures.

It is always better with help. Especially help wearing a cute owl apron.

 Baking, baking, baking...

 Cooling, cooling, cooling...

The finished product - how festive!

I have to say, adding a simple drizzle of chocolate to things makes it that much better. 
Plus, everyone is impressed by it! 

Ginger Snaps with White Chocolate Drizzle
Source Unknown

1 cup - packed brown sugar
3/4 cup - vegetable oil
1/4 cup - molasses
1 egg
2 cup - all-purpose flour
2 tsp - baking soda
1/4 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - ground cloves
1 tsp - ground cinnamon
1 tsp - ground ginger
1/3 cup - white sugar (for decoration)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; cover baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together brown sugar, oil, molasses & egg. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon & ginger. Stir into the molasses mixture.

Roll dough into 1-1/4 inch balls; roll each ball in white sugar before placing onto baking sheets 2" apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until center is a bit firm to the touch & edges are slightly dark. Cool completely on wire racks. 

Place waxed paper underneath the wire racks. In a plastic decorator's bag (or sandwich bag), melt white chocolate (chips or chopped bark) in the microwave on half-power for about 2 minutes, checking the chocolate every 30 seconds to avoid over-cooking. When chocolate is soft & melted, snip about 1/4" off the tip of the bag (or corner if using a sandwich bag) and quickly drizzle over cooled cookies. 

Let chocolate set for at least 10 minutes. Serve or store in air-tight container for 3-5 days.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best Christmas Movies Ever!

My husband and I agree that Christmas is one of the best seasons of the year. He loves the weather, I love sweaters and boots. The food is more fun. People are more pleasant. There lights and sparkles on everything. *Sigh* How can you not just love it?!

And there are Christmas movies. 

Many blogs I read are benevolently providing their readers with gift guides - I am not that resourceful so I am providing you with my list of the top 10 Christmas Movies... in my opinion. 

#10: White Christmas
I think this is almost necessary to have on this list just because it is the iconic Christmas movie. It is a good story, however. And the best part is that the housekeeper is also the Sister Mary Lazarus from Sister Act. Yesss.

 #9: Just Friends
Not technically a Christmas movie but it is set at Christmas time and is hilarious. 
Notable Scenes: Anna Faris eating a tube of toothpaste while on painkillers; the interaction between Ryan Reynolds' character and his brother; the mom. Funny stuff.
#8: Mickey's Christmas Carol
A childhood favorite of mine. My friend, Marina, and I must have watched this movie about a million times. The birthplace of Scrooge McDuck. 
#7: Home Alone
This is just classic - all the pranks young Master Culkin plays on the unsuspecting burglars - oh, so funny. This is Daniel Stern at his finest. Plus, I love Catherine O'Hara, too. 
#6: Holiday Inn
Probably one of my all-time favorite classic films anyway, but it also works as one of my top Christmas movies. Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire - so good. Notable scenes: anything with Mamie the housekeeper and her kids ("Is you name Miss Linda?). Quality film-making.
#5: Love Actually
Such a cute story - very touching and gives hope to the love-lorn everywhere. Plus Rowan Atkinson is in it. 
#4: Scrooged
If you haven't noticed yet, I like funny movies. This is a classic, funny movie. Bill Murray is so funny as the "Scrooge" character. Karen Kane is the best Ghost of Christmas Present that there ever has been. If you haven't seen this, rent it (or whatever the kids do these days... stream it? download it? Ugh, I'm old.) You won't be sorry.
#3: Better off Dead
OK, so technically not a Christmas movie BUT has some of the best Christmas scenes E-V-E-R! 
Example 1: Teaching the French exchange student about Christmas. Cha-ris-muus... 
Example 2: The mom. She dresses up as a reindeer. She gives frozen TV dinners as gifts. She makes jackets out of aardvarks. We should all be so lucky to have her for a mom. 
#2: Christmas Vacation
In my opinion, probably the 2nd best in the Vacation series after the original. 
Why is the carpet wet, Todd? I don't know, Margo. 

Drum Roll......
#1: Elf
SANTAAA - I know him!
Oh, he's an angry elf.
I'm singing, I'm in a store and I'm singing.
I'm just a cotton-headed ninny muggin.
Syrup in coffee - why didn't I think of that?

There is no Christmas movie better than Elf. 

Again - these are my opinions. When I told my list to my husband he was not happy that A Christmas Story was missing from the list. Or A Muppet Christmas Carol. I am not saying these other movies are not good - they're just not my faves. 

Enjoy your holidays - and check out some of these films - you'll be pleased. 

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fun New Project

I bet everyone is wondering what I'm up to these days... where have I been? what am I doing? 
Actually.. I am working on something big. Well, big for me, at least. 

I am opening an Etsy store. Yay!

After my post about my festive birthday garland, I got so much positive feedback on it that I decided that I would make and sell different fun garlands, banners, buntings, etc. I've been a busy bee trying to work on some items so sell in my new store so that is why my blog posts have been so sparse lately. That and it's the holidays... work is crazy... I have a 2 year old... etc.  (is "etc" even needed?! Aren't the first 3 things enough?) So definitely look for that, coming in January.

Something I do want to share with you is my new Lepper Colony logo that my very talented husband made for me. 

Isn't it awesome?! I heart it so much.

So now that I've told you all about this festive new venture, I have to get working as not to disappoint all my adoring fans. All 8 of you. (For all of whom, I am very grateful!)

And maybe I can get my buns in gear and actually post some holiday posts. I've been working on some tasty treats that I want to share. I'll be back with those - pinky-promise. 

Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Palm Springs

A few weeks ago, my beloved and I had a chance to escape for the weekend to Palm Springs to celebrate our 4th anniversary. And, since, I have a new camera to mess with now, I thought I would just share some pics from our weekend and my attempts at learning how to use this tool of modern technology. 
Bear with me.. I am a complete novice!

It was the best weekend - the weather was warm but not too hot, the food was great, the company was perfect.

We stayed at the Alcazar - a smaller hotel but perfect for our weekend. Very quiet & serene. I highly recommend it for a getaway.
One of the gates at the hotel - beautiful colored glass w/wrought iron
The courtyard had these water walls - they were so cool. 

The pool - very quiet and simple

Alcazar is on Palm Canyon Drive - very centrally located - and within walking distance
to almost everything
Our first stop on Saturday morning was brunch at Pinocchio's. It came highly recommended for its all-you-can-drink mimosas and they definitely delivered!
One of many large art installments along our walk to breakfast
I loved the colors of this bike shop against the mountains & sky

And it was pretty cool in black & white, too!

For our anniversary dinner we ate at Jake's - conveniently located a few doors down from Alcazar. We chose to eat on the patio and it was a great decision. The weather cooled off nicely and just added to our great meal. Note: Jake's is a very small restaurant; make a reservation!

Looking sassy for our date
(Admittedly, not the best photo but the best we could do without
a tripod or a 3rd person to take the picture)
Sunday Morning Brunch was had at Cheeky's - conveniently attached to the front side of Alcazar. The wait is long but the food is worth it. 
Palm Springs is pretty dog-friendly (I think most cities
in Southern California are jumping on this train) but I
just loved how the idea of bringing your pooch
to brunch was so normal. 

You read the paper, they sniff.

This man's pants were so sassy I had to capture their awesomeness. 

The man who puts up with me... and puts up with me
taking like 12 pictures of him in a row while practicing
my skills (or lack thereof)
Isn't he photogenic?!

After looking through these pictures it looks like all we did was eat... which is, in fact, a pretty accurate depiction of our activities that weekend. Having a 2-year old we don't get to eat out much - and if we do we are trying to get in and out as fast as possible. It was great to be able to linger over our leisurely meals, have meaningful conversations and actually enjoy each other - no crayons or kids menus involved.

A perfect anniversary weekend!

Alcazar Hotel

Friday, October 5, 2012

Where are you, Fall?

I don't know about you but I am ready for Fall to get here. 
It is October 5th and we are still wearing shorts and sandals. 
Halloween is a mere 25 days away and no leaves have turned, there is no crispness in the air.
Fall? Are you there?

In my best efforts to will Fall to come I keep making beef stew. I bought a new crockpot on Monday just for the occasion. I've never really been much of a crockpot person - for some reason I can't ever get the food cooked in the crockpot to come out well. Why are the easiest things always so hard for me (see: Rice Crispy Treats)?! 

Then I realized the problem might not be me... but my crock pot. You see, I inherited my first crockpot. from my mom - she had extras (what?!) so she gave me one. It was lovely, decent sized... but always seemed to run a bit hot and would incinerate whatever was in it. I also have a theory that it was, in fact, too big and that worked against me - too much hot surface, not enough food... something like that. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DIY: Festive Birthday Garland

Yes, it's true... on top of baking and cooking... I love to DIY and be all crafty. And now, I am going to share it with you! You lucky dogs!

My birthday was last week and, whereas, my wonderful husband is great and talented at lots of things, creating birthday decorations may not be one of them. So, instead of waiting to find out, I decided to make my own birthday garland to hang up in the living room.
Yay! Cute and festive!

Confession: I love Joann Fabric
I could happily browse the aisles for hours and be happy as a clam. 
The day I went to pick out fabric for my banner all of the fat squares were $1!! Can you believe it?! What luck! So I picked out 4 different patterns for my birthday garland and 5 different patterns for my fall garland (that has yet to be worked on.. sigh). 

This project is actually fairly easy but is not a quick project. I cut all my triangles on one day and then attacked the sewing another. My blocks of time are not always consistent so I take it as it comes. 


 As I mentioned previously, the first step is cutting out all your triangles. I just made a triangle shape that I liked out of some cardboard laying around and then marked and cut all my triangles. Don't forget to cut a front &  back for each triangle. 

I cut about 5-6 of each pattern.

 You will edge-stitch down the two long sides of each triangle. I would keep your stitch length pretty short to avoid any side blow-outs. (Or worse - point blow-out!)

I sewed down one side & with the needle down, rotated the triangle to sew back up the other side. I like doing this better than having to lift the needle and reposition the triangle. 
Working smarter, not harder, since 1985. 

 Snip the tip off of your triangle to help cut down on the bulk inside your flag once you flip it right-side-out. Be careful not to cut the stitching!

Turn your triangle right-side-out and with a pen (or similar) push the triangle tip down so all the fabric is flat.

 All my triangles are ready to be pressed!

 Pressing the triangles will definitely help with sewing them. This fabric is 100% cotton so it gets nice and crisp when you press it. This definitely helps when sewing them to the tape. 

  Layout your triangles by color & then you can easily put them in order for sewing. I find it super helpful to have all my triangles in the sewing order before I start sewing. Then you can just grab from the top of the pile without having to worry that you just sewed 2 of the same color in a row. Eek! 

I used 1/4" double-fold bias tape to make the garland. I think 3/8" or 1/2" might be easier (gives you a bit more room at the top to tuck the triangle in) but I went with 1/4" for this project. I liked the "dainty" size of it. For bigger triangles - definitely use a wider tape.

For the first triangle, I found it necessary to pin it in place to start sewing. Leave about 3-4 inches of the tape at the end (for the hanger loop) and then pin the top raw edge into the tape, sandwiching it between the top/bottom. The tape's fold should be facing up. 

 Using a short stitch-length (or SPI for the sewing savvy), edge stitch as close to the bottom side of the taping as possible. Edge-stitching will ensure you catch the whole length of the triangle in the taping. Once you have reached the end of the triangle, continue to sew for about 1/4" then, with the needle down, lift the foot and add your next triangle, sandwiching it in the tape. Put the foot back down and continue sewing until all your triangles are used or until you run out of taping. If it is the latter, be sure to save about 4" at the end of the taping for the hanger loop.

 To create the hanger loop, simply turn back the ends of each side and tack (tack &  back-tack about 3-4 times to ensure stability). 

And there you have it - your very own festive triangle garland!

 It just screams "Happy Birthday," doesn't it?

In case you're wondering, I had a nice birthday. Weekday birthdays are always a bit more subdued but for a Thursday, it was perfect. 

Happy Crafting!

PS: have I mentioned my complete adoration for Martha Stewart?