Thursday, December 20, 2012

Saturday Funday in Kansas City

Every night this week, I've had big plans to put up a blog post, but other Christmas projects and last minute things took up my time. Tonight I can finally say that I'm done buying, making, wrapping and shipping presents. Now I just need to pack up for our Christmas vacation. But first I wanted to tell you all about our Saturday Funday in KC last weekend. We've done this once before when we try and pick somewhat touristy things to do around town but that was a long time ago and we kept saying we'd do it again. Well we finally decided to and I set about making a list of places we'd go. You'll probably be able to tell that these are places I picked without Joe's help haha.

Our first stop of the day was a local bakery called Strawberry Hill where they make a Croatian sweet bread called Povitica. I drive past this bakery every day on the way to and from work, and one day I finally decided to look up what Strawberry Hill was. I saw on their website that they let people watch the bread being made and offered free samples :) I didn't take any pictures at the bakery, but here is a link to their website: Strawberry Hill. Povitica is a delicious sweet bread that has tons of layers of thin pastry filled with a variety of mixtures. A couple of people reading this will be getting some for Christmas, but I won't say who :)

The Christmas tree at Crown Center.

Next we headed downtown to an area called Crown Center. It is where the Hallmark Card company was started (which is why it's the "Crown" center). The area has shopping, an ice rink, aquarium, Lego Land, and the Hallmark Visitor's Center. Which is where we were headed. The visitor center is essentially a Hallmark museum and it was really cool to look back through the history of the company. There were some fun interactive parts too and we even got to watch a bow making machine working and take home a free bow haha. When we were walking back to our car in the parking garage, we passed this creepy Santa who was just laughing and nodding his head. Joe was not amused.

Our next stop was Union Station. It is one of the only remaining grand Beaux Arts styles stations in the country. The Kansas City Union Station does still have an Amtrack terminal but it mostly houses several fun attractions (as well as a post office). We happened to be visiting on a day when Santa's train was in town, but the line to see him was too long so we opted to just see some of the other things there. We walked through their huge model train display and saw some pretty cool stuff.

This was part of the Lionel Train exhibit. Even the car at the McDonald's was on a track to go in circles.

We also checked out a little display they had with small scale models of old roller coasters from the local theme park, Worlds of Fun. It was fun to watch the little roller coaster cars running around the tracks.

Then instead of going to any of the paid exhibits (science center, planetarium, and not sure what else), we wandered around until we found the stairs to get to the second level of the station where we could check out the balconies. It was an awesome view from up there, and we also came across a little exhibit where they explained how the station had been restored after it had basically been left to fall apart. I love old buildings like this and am so grateful that someone chose to restore the station instead of just tearing it down.

After that we drove down to old town Overland Park, Kansas to get a bite to eat and check out some of the cool little shops. This probably wasn't Joe's favorite part, but we did see some fun stuff and got a little bit of Christmas shopping done. Then we came home and there was just enough daylight left for me to hang the six-pack snowflakes up outside and string up some lights.

My personal holiday motto :)

Overall it was a really fun day and now we have more things to add to our list of places to take all of you when you come visit us :) Well, Christmas is almost here and I'm getting excited. I hope you all have safe travels and very Merry Christmas holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Oreo Truffles

We have a snowflake making kit winner! Congrats to Heather, I'll send your snowflakes supplies ASAP :)

And since I can't write a post just announcing the winner, I had to include a super simple recipe for a dessert that everyone always loves. Oreo truffles! (Or as I usually call them, Oreo balls.) I've been making these for a few years now and they're always a big hit where ever I bring them. And people are always amazed by the colored candy coating drizzled on top (I'm honestly not sure why though haha). You only need 4 ingredients to make these, and though it isn't necessary to have special tools, a food processor will make the mixing so much easier.

Here's how to make them!

Oreo Truffles
Makes approx. 30, 1" balls

1 package regular Oreos (preferably not double stuff, though I have used flavored double stuff like candy cane ones)
1 8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened (I usually use 1/3 less fat)
Almond bark for coating
Colored candy coating for drizzling

Start by placing all of the Oreos (except 6 or so, save those for yourself haha) in the bowl of your food processor. If you're not using a food processor, then place the Oreos in a large ziploc bag.

Run the food processor, or crush the Oreos inside the Ziploc with a rolling pin until finely ground.

Cut the cream cheese into a few chunks and add to the bowl of the food processor. Or pour the Oreo crumbs from the ziploc into a bowl and add the chunks of cream cheese.

Process or stir until the crumbs and cream cheese are evenly mixed. Cover and place the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Remove from the fridge and use a spoon or a cookie scoop to portion out the mixture onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Then roll each scoop into a nice round ball and place back in the fridge for another 30 or up to a few hours.

When ready to coat the truffles, chop up 6 pieces of the almond bark (I found that's the perfect amount for 1 batch of truffles), and place them in a glass measuring cup, or some other microwave safe bowl. A measuring cup just works well because it's tall and deep.

Heat the almond bark in the microwave for 1 minute then stir. Heat for 30 second intervals after that and stir well in between. It should only take about 2 minutes total. Continue stirring until all the lumps are gone.

Remove the truffles from the fridge and drop one into the melted almond bark. Instead of turning the truffle around in the coating, use a fork to scoop some coating over the truffle. Then use the fork to scoop the ball out. Keep the ball toward the end of the fork and tap the fork a few times on the rim of the measuring cup. Then let the ball gently roll back onto the wax paper.

Repeat for the rest of the truffles!

The ones where you can see the oreos underneath are like that because they rolled too much when coming off the fork.

If you want to drizzle them with colored coating, I recommend buying the bags of candy coating wafers at somewhere like Michael's or Hobby Lobby. Trying to dye almond bark using food coloring does not work. Simply place some of the candy coating wafers in a ziploc baggie and microwave for a minute. Then just squeeze the bag around with your hand till they're all melted. Snip a tiny corner off the bag and drizzle over the covered truffles.  That's it!

After making 100s of these over the past few years I've kind of gotten the hang of it, but getting the coating to look good can take some practice. No matter how good they look though, they'll still taste awesome :)

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great weekend! Can you believe it's only 12 days til Christmas!?! Gah! I can't.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

DIY Recycled Six Pack Snowflakes

... and a Giveaway!

I've got a little tutorial and a little giveaway for one of you to make your own set of these cute Christmas decorations. The story on these snowflakes actually goes back a while. I think Mom found instructions on how to make them in a Country Living magazine once and we made several of them to hang from the ceiling in our sunroom. I thought it would be fun to make some to hang in the trees in our front yard here, but since Joe and I don't drink much soda, I put the thought out of my mind (you have to have 16 six pack rings to make 1 large snowflake!) One day a few months ago I happened to glance in the recycling bin in the kitchen at work and lo and behold, it was full of six pack holders! I knew this was fate and since there was no one else in the kitchen I quickly grabbed them all out of the bin and brought them to my office. It turns out that the Pepsi man who refills our vending machine every other week usually just throws out the ring when he visits every 2 weeks. So for the next several weeks, I made sure to catch him every other Tuesday morning and ask if he'd kindly set the rings aside for me. I have no shame :) By this time last week, I had enough for more snowflakes than I needed! That's where the giveaway comes in. I'll send one of you enough six pack holders to make 3 large snowflakes and 3 small ones (or just 11 small ones), and all the other supplies you'll need! The tutorial may be a little detailed, so I better jump right in.

Large Six Pack Snowflake
(uses 16 six pack rings; 8 per side)

Step 1: Start by making all the individual pieces. You'll do this same step for all 16 rings.
Fold the rings in half long ways (hot dog style) and staple the rings together along the long edge on each end where they meet. Do not staple the two middle rings together.

Repeat for all 16.

Step 2: Now you'll make 1 side of the snowflake. It is necessary to make a 2 sided snowflake to keep it from flipping out of its round shape. Take 2 of your hot dog pieces and line them up next to each other, then staple them together at one end as seen below. Then continue until you have 8 of them in a row. Then staple the first and last together to make a ring. Hopefully the pictures below will help make that more clear. Do this with both sets of 8 so you'll have 2 rings.

Step 3: Working with one of the rings, start with 2 pieces that are next to each other and staple them together at the middle section that had not been stapled in step 1. Do this all the way around so that the pieces are all attached. Repeat with the second ring. See pictures below.

Step 4: Now you'll connect the 2 rings. This is kind of tricky to explain. Lay one ring on top of the other and staple the ends of the each snowflake point together. You  kind of have to flip one of the tips inside out so it will fit inside the other one. This is where the mini stapler really comes in handy in such a tight spot.

The staple to connect the two sides will go right about where my thumb is, at each point of the snowflake.

Step 5: You'll probably notice once the 2 sides are connected that the sometimes bubble out or flip out to one side or the other. I found that if you can just get them connected with a couple staples in the middle of the snowflake, it will fix those problems. I didn't really get a good picture of this, but you just have to squeeze the stapler in there and get them connected.

Small Six Pack Snowflake
(uses only 6 rings)

Step 1: Fold one six pack ring in half "hamburger style" and staple just one of the sides together where they meet. (see the picture below). Repeat for each of the remaining 5 rings.

The staple for step one will go right where my thumb is.

Step 2: Hold 2 of the pieces next to each other, both facing the same way, and staple the small folded ends together, but just through one layer of the rings (see picture below). Continue with the other pieces until you have a ring of 6 by connecting the beginning and the end.

The small folded ends of 2 pieces are on the right and are stapled together.

Step 3: Now you'll connect the outer edges of the pieces together to make the ring more stable. Staple the edges of neighbor pieces together where they were not stapled in the first step. Do this all the way around the circle and you're done!

It's a little blurry, but the edges of the two pieces are stapled together in the middle. The edges of the pieces on the outsides will be stapled to the next 2 pieces. 

The final steps for both snow flakes is to spray paint them, add some glitter then hang them up in the house, or as I plan to do, outside in a tree. It's a great way to use up something that would other wise be trashed or recycled, and I happen to think they're actually really pretty :)

I haven't had time to hang them up outside during the daylight, so I have no pictures of them there. But I did hang them from the ceiling fan in our family room for a little bit just to snap some pics in front of our Christmas tree.

Now for the giveaway!  As I said before you'll get the six pack rings to make the snowflakes, a mini stapler and staples, and fishing line for hanging. Since I don't want to mail spray paint and spray glitter, I'll include a $10 gift card to Walmart for you to pick that up on your own. I would recommend getting a spray primer since it will stick nicely to the plastic and it covers well. The spray glitter I got is Krylon and it really worked well! To enter, just leave a comment (or shoot me an email) letting me know your favorite kind of Christmas cookie. (I'm always looking for new cookies to bake haha) I'll do the drawing on Thursday so I can hopefully send these out on Friday or Saturday. That's it for tonight! I hope you're having a good week so far and thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snowman Christmas Party Cake

Hi everyone! This will just be a short post today since I need to get packed up for a quick trip to Ohio for work, which will also include a visit home. I meant to show y'all this cake sometime last week, but just never got around to it. Instead my evenings were spent doing Christmas things around the house, including a few crafts that I'll show on here soon. Back to the cake though. My office Christmas party was last Saturday, and a few weeks prior to that, our office administrator had asked me if I'd be interested in making dessert for it. She was offering to pay me for it, so of course I said yes :) She said I could do whatever design/flavors I wanted and it just needed to feed around 100 people. The design I came up with was "safety snowman". As a pipeline company that is involved in lots of construction around heavy equipment and high pressure pipelines, we are always very concerned with safety, and one of the prime symbols of safety is the hard hat. Traditionally, hard hats are white, but since the snowman was going to be white, I decided to make it in the color of our logo which is red, and then do the company logo in white and red on the front.

A little blurry, but that's probably for the best :) He needs arms!!!

I don't really have any process shots of making this cake, and the final pictures aren't so great either, but I'll give a quick description of how it was made. The cakes for the snowman were all baked in a set of pyrex bowls that I have in 3 sizes. The base cake was mint chocolate cake, filling and ganache, the middle was almond cake with amaretto filling and white chocolate ganache, and the top was plain chocolate cake, filling and ganache. All the cakes were covered in marshmallow fondant, which as you can see, I once again had a hard time getting the cakes covered without wrinkles. But snowmen are usually a little lumpy, right? The hard hat was actually a giant rice crispie treat that I made and shaped using a real hard hat. Then it was iced and covered in fondant as well.

Just waiting on his nose. The little yellow and purple things in the bottom right are the "bubble straws" I used for support. 

To support the cake, Joe cut a piece of MDF into a square then drilled into it a little bit and glued in a dowel rod. I covered the base in wrapping paper, and poked a whole the same size as the dowel into the cardboard round that was under each cake section. I also used big "bubble straws" as the supports inside each cake. This set up/support system seemed to work really well.

The support only needed to go a little way into the hard hat. 
As usual, I wasn't completely pleased with the cake, since he was a little wrinkly and lumpy, but the real thing I was kicking myself for was forgetting to bring arms for him! I was just going to grab some real sticks from the yard, then place straws in the side of the cake and slide the sticks in there so they wouldn't touch the actual cake. But I was so busy working on the cake all day that it completely slipped my mind. He just looks kind of silly without arms. In the end though, the cake was a big hit and it tasted delicious, so I'll consider it a success!

Stay tuned for a Christmas craft in a couple days and a giveaway to go along with it! I hope you're all doing well and having a merry Christmas season.