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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

My sister has become an avid baker, and embraces the Christmas Season with super-size bags of flour, sugar, and nuts.  I'm not kidding.  Her bag of flour is almost bigger than my three year old.  She makes a bazillion cookies every Christmas and gives out trays to neighbors, coworkers, and friends...and still has more leftover for a cookie buffet at home.  My boys look forward to it every year we travel there for Christmas : ) Scrumptious treats that, after all her baking practice, turn out with perfection.  She has now begun tinkering with recipes to develop new versions.  I asked if she could share four or five of her favorites with me to post here on Craft, Interrupted for December in place of What's Cookin' Wednesdays.  Maybe it should be "What's the Cookie Wednesday?"  Yes I'm a dork.

These are well-tested winners, every one of them!  I hope you enjoy these recipes!

First up, one of MY personal faves (originally from Taste of Home Magazine) are

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Cream together in large bowl:
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter*
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar

Add in:
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine separately:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Gradually add flour mixture into creamed butter/sugar mixture until well combined.
Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Roll into 1 1/4" balls - smaller and it won't cover the peanut butter cup, so err large 
Press a miniature peanut butter cup into each.  Reshape balls so chocolate cup is covered.

Place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake @ 350 for 12-15 minutes.
Cool 2 minutes on pan.
Remove to wire racks and cool completely.

In microwave bowl:
Melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon shortening.
Melt together and stir until smooth.
Drizzle over cooled cookies.

Makes 3 dozen
*reduced fat peanut butter not recommended

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Memories Giveaway Winner!

 Thanks to random.org 's random number generator, our My Memories Suite 2 giveaway winner is...

#1 - Tiffany,
who commented:  "I like dotty Christmas! It would go good with my Xmas cards this year!"

Awesome Tiffany!  Now you can make those Christmas cards : )  I'll be in touch soon with your My Memories promo code so you can download the software for free!

And don't forget, even if you didn't win the giveaway, you can still get My Memories for just $29.97 PLUS a $10 off coupon for the My Memories store, by using the code below at checkout.
STMMMS21095
 
I'm keeping that code in the sidebar, with the link to My Memories, 
so you can find and use it anytime : )

Tips on Tuesday - Traveling with Kids

Three years ago we moved a big-time move - 800+ miles through seven states.  My boys were *just* 4yrs old, 2 1/2, and 4 months at the time. We have endured made several trips back and forth since then, to visit family for holidays.  It's about 14 hours of road to cover, but with three little ones and a dog along, you have to factor in a few extra hours for all the potty stops.  We have tried it in one solid swoop.  We have tried it broken into two days.  We have tried it through the night while the kids (hopefully) sleep.  Any way you spin it, it's a L-O-N-G time to be in the car with kids.

Here is a breakdown of my survival plan.  It's some extra effort up front, but definitely pays off!

1)  Portable DVD player -
We were blessed to have someone give us a two-unit system.  I added headphones for when only one child wants movie time.  Now I will say, being able to play movies for the kids while we drive definitely gives us a few peaceful hours overall.  However, that thing really makes me want to tear my hair out half the time, too - the webs of cords that bored persons keep messing with, plugging in this and that, making sure it reaches, moving the units from seat to seat for who wants to watch and who doesn't, adjusting volumes, starting movies only to have the rabble throw tomatoes and then shout demands for changing discs...all of which requires me to unbuckle my seatbelt and climb back over the rows of mini van seats to adjust and fiddle while we are moving down the highway...in the end, it does keep some peace.  But there is a price.  Just sayin'.

2) Portable Game Systems
Leapster 2 and Nintendo DSI were both charged to full power and taken in the car with all game cartridges.  Don't forget the charger cords to boost them up again while you stop at a hotel, or before your return trip!  I put all the Nintendo stuff in an old Mario zip-up lunch bag.  The Leapster had a case already that held both the game system and several cartridges.  I put all of this in a small tote bag behind one of the seats, where my bigger kids could reach it.

3) Snacks -
I pack a small cooler and stow it behind the driver's seat where I can reach it from the front passenger side.  My Little Man rides in his carseat behind the driver and doesn't need the foot/leg room there, so it's a perfect spot for the cooler.  Our cooler this trip had:  cold bottled water with the sport top for less spills, frozen Go-Gurt tubes, frozen cheese sticks, frozen GoGo Squeez Applesauce Pouches, Capri Sun drink pouches, carrot sticks...I didn't have time to go back for the bagged pre-sliced apples that don't go brown, but I would have added those, too.  We tossed in a ziplock bag of leftover pizza slices, too.

The rest of the snacks went into a big tote bag on the floor behind the center cup holder thing: Uncrustables PB&J Sandwiches, cashews and cocoa almonds, pretzels, fruit snacks, and about fifteen plastic snack cups of Goldfish crackers and graham cookies.  I used to do ziplock bags, but they get crushed with all the in/out potty stops, so this time I picked up three 5-packs of 4oz lidded cups from Dollar Tree and filled them before we left on the trip.  This made it really easy to reach back, grab a plastic snack cup, and toss it to the hungry lions in the back seats.

Now I will say, I don't normally shell out for the prepackaged stuff like Uncrustables and GoGo Squeez.  However, on long trips like this, I do myself a favor and make it easy.  Bonus, since those types of items aren't things my kids usually get, it makes it fun for them ; )  AND in four days of traveling (there and back) we did not stop for ONE fast food meal.  Not one!  The kids ate Uncrustables, cheese, yogurt, applesauce, crackers, etc., and Hubby and I snacked on leftover pizza, plus crunchy stuff like nuts, pretzels, and carrots, to help us stay awake.  We got treats here and there at gas stops, but were able to skip all the drive-thrus.

4) Travel Trays -  
There are lots of different versions of this sort of thing.  Some have pockets on the sides, some fold up.  The ones I got for my older boys when we moved were these Taby Tray travel desks.  

They are hard plastic, easily disinfected, and a good surface for coloring and such.  They have a mesh strap that goes around the back of the carseat, with plastic buckle clips on each end that attach to straps on the sides of the tray.  This way, once it is buckled, it's not flying off the lap.  I could reach back and unclip the inside buckle of my Little Man's tray without unbuckling my belt and climbing back over seats, and then flip it sideways off his lap and down by the door of the car out of his way.  It has been WELL worth the extra dollars to have these!!  Both for doing activities and for eating meals.  Here's a pic of my Little Man doing tracing books with his lap tray.  He used it a lot.

You could make a travel tray out of a cookie sheet, and do magnet activities on it.  I love this one from Family Fun that has white contact paper for a dry erase board, and an eraser tied to the side.  I decided to buy mine though (pre-crafting days, mind you), because I loved the cup holder, pencil tray, and stay-in-place straps!






5) Keep-Me-Busy Crate -
This is a good one, and worth every minute of your time to prepare in advance.  The Keep-Me-Busy Crate is just that, a plastic crate full of activity items that can pass the time, such as:

Lift-the-Flap & Search-and-Find Books
Consignment stores are good places to find gently used ones for cheap!


 Art Activity Wallets & Felt Marble Mazes
This is what used to be in my church bag.  I just restocked the wallets and threw them in the crate!


Dry Erase Trace Books
Don't forget a ziplock bag of dry erase markers & an eraser! (an old sock works, too)
These books have been well used on trips!  I wipe them with a magic eraser and dry with a towel to get back to a clean slate before a road trip.  It gets all that old and dried on marker off like, well, magic ; )

Clip Matching Games & Lacing Cards
I made these clip games with sets of Dollar Tree mini plastic clips, leftover Potty Training stickers, and some clear CD covers snagged from Hubby's office trash.  The teeny circle stickers were the perfect size!  Match the one on the clip to the one on the CD and clip onto the side.  I made two sets a few years ago and still use them - green with bugs and blue with polar critters.  I think the lacing cards were from Office Depot?  In the teacher section.  You can find all sorts of lacing cards on amazon for $7-$10, or on ebay for $5 or less.

 Handheld Electronic Games
We have two Leapfrog games that have sequencing, matching, and phonics activities, plus a talking thing that does letter games and doodling.  These weren't used much though and I think next trip I will leave them out. 
 MagnaDoodle & Chalkboard
My Little Man used both of these a lot on this trip.  The chalkboard set was a Dollar Tree purchase.

 Other Ideas
In the past, I have used Color Wonder markers and paper, touchy-feely books and sound books for my youngest.
 I also did scratch card stencil packs and magic pen picture pads, found at Dollar Tree and a consignment store.  Brain Quest cards are good, but with little ones you have to be sitting next to them to read through the cards for them.  I know they make Brain Quest for lots of ages though.
 I also had some sticker puzzles where you match the number on the sticker to a numbered square on a grid and it makes a scene when you get them all in place.  My boys were a little too young for that one the year that I tried it.

 Printable Car Games
I used MomsMiniVan.com for free printable car games like Car Bingo and Travel Scavenger Hunt.  I just put a piece of cardboard inside a ziplock bag as a stiff backing, then inserted several printed/trimmed pages of car games, and a dry-erase marker with the little eraser in the cap.  My boys could find the game they wanted and put it on top of the stack, then close the ziplock bag.  The dry erase marker could mark off the items they found on the plastic of the bag, and then be erased for a new game card.  MomsMiniVan has lots of great travel tips, too!  I think next trip I will do the Travel Tickets, so they will have some idea of how many more tickets to go till we get there.

Believe it or not, this stuff fits neatly into my 9x13 plastic crate, which in turn fits snugly between two carseats for easy access.  Well, ok, there was a foam puzzle and a bag of marble mazes that wouldn't squish in there this time, but in the past I HAVE gotten everything into that crate.  If I lose those electronic games next time it'll be perfect ; ) 
The Keep-Me-Busy Crate is totally worth the effort!  I pull that crate out of the van and stick it right on a shelf in the closet after a trip, so that those items aren't things they are playing with on a regular basis.  They are (most of them) reserved for big road trips.  One summer when I had lots of therapy appointments with my oldest, and had to bring the younger two along as well, I would pull a few things out of this crate to help us get through that hour in the waiting room.

6) Bag o' Treasures -
This is something new I did this year and it was a smash hit.  I bought a bag of assorted candy and a handful of trinkety prizes at the Dollar Tree...ninja figures, silly putty, mini light saber, collector/trader cards, a light-up robot...my Little Man helped me wrap them all in aluminum foil, candy included.  I put them all in a tote bag and kept it in the front of the car.  Every so many hours or miles, or crossing state lines, or just when we needed something to save us from the insanity, I would choose a treasure and toss it back.

Other winners, also from Dollar Tree:  a pack of wedding favor bubbles, and a pack of glow stick bracelets.  The bubbles work great for little ones stuck in carseats!  You can blow it back to them, or if they can manage it, they can blow the bubbles themselves.  The stick kind of bubble favor with the corkscrew top works really well and there's only a little bubble mixture in each one so even if it does spill, it's minor.  Glow sticks are awesome for night time driving.  It's the little things ; )

Seems like a lot of extra stuff, but wasn't really:
  • 1 tote bag of treasures
  • 1 tote bag of snacks
  • 1 small cooler of snacks
  • 1 crate of activities
  • 1 tote of video games and movie discs for the player
All of this fits easily in between or under seats.  I also squish in a bag with one full change of clothes for each kid, a plastic bag to hold wet/messy stuff, and a pack of baby wipes, 'cause you never know.

Do YOU have a tip for traveling with kids?  Please share!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Make it on Monday - Frog Cake & Hoppy Birthday Printables

I seem to be edging my way into making fancier cakes for my boys' birthdays.  It started with the Garbage Truck Cake last year, for my 3 year old.  That cake was my first venture into something 3-D, besides the School Buses.  It was also my first time experimenting with fondant.  It turned out pretty good!  Then I tried a Snake Cake for my snake-obsessed 7 year old.  Obviously I couldn't leave out my middle child, so when his birthday rolled around a couple of weeks ago, I made him a cake that looked like his favorite thing - a frog!


I used two boxed cake mixes, one white and one chocolate, and separated the batter into the following:
One 8" round cake pan
One square cake pan (I think mine was bigger than 8", but 8" would have been better.)
24 cupcakes

To make the frog shape, you use the round cake as the body, two of the cupcakes as the eyes, and then cut the square cake into two "L" shapes for legs.  You can easily do this by first trimming a rectangle out of the center first.  I covered a cookie sheet with foil and used it as a cake plate.
I tinted some frosting green and did a thin crumb coat, then popped it in the freezer for five minutes.  I used a star tip on an icing bag to cover the top of the cake.  I've never done this method before.  I think in the future, I need to make my own buttercream frosting for this, because the stuff from the can wasn't quite thick enough.  It did work, but would have looked even better with icing of the proper consistency.  Just sayin'.  It wasn't stiff enough to do the sides, so I had to go back and spread flat icing on the sides after the tops were done.  Not what I had in mind, but in the end it turned out alright.
I didn't think ahead to tint separate bowls of icing, so I added some spots with green decorator sugar sprinkles.  Some of those areas I had left open with no stars, and those looked better.  The others I tried to smoosh flat with the back of a plastic spoon before sprinkling.  I was able to control the sprinkles by spooning it on instead of shaking it on.

Thankfully, there was a teeny bit of unmixed icing toward the bottom of the can, and that is what I used to cover the whites of the eyes with.  Then I added slices of tootsie roll, maybe 1/4" thick and flattened into a nice circle.  This cake was made a day ahead though and by serving time, the candy bits were spreading into the icing.  I think next time I'll hold that part off until the day of the celebration.
I rolled and stretch another tootsie roll, and trimmed it to a good length, then laid it on top for a mouth.  The tongue was a starburst (thank you leftover Halloween stash!), that I flattened and rolled.  I added a little curl-over to that when I put it on the cake.

I got an idea the next day to add some dragonflies flying overhead.  You know, that Mr. Happy Frog was trying to eat with that sticky pink tongue of his.  I did this with some thin craft wire and paper punches.  I hot glued the end of the wire to a punched shape, and then sandwiched another on top so that the end of the wire was hidden in between the two.

 I made one single and one double (use a longer piece of wire and fold it in a V, then attach punches to each end), so three flying dragonflies in all.  Then I just bent the opposite end over on itself a few times and poked it right down into the cake.  The wire is very flexible, so it was easily shaped so that the bugs were flying here and there.  It was really hard to get decent photos of how it looked, but it did, in my opinion, make a really cool accent.  And it was super easy to do!

The rest of the cupcakes were going to be decorated with a swirl of green icing, more sprinkles, and a cupcake topper, served in a 4oz plastic solo cup with the paper lining already removed.  I made Candy Corn Cupcakes like this for Halloween, and posted a pic on Craft, Interrutped's Facebook page.  Well, minus the two cupcakes that became the eyes, I was a few cupcakes short for my son's kindergarten class.  I was going to make a whole new batch.  I even created a set of cupcake toppers with my new My Memories Suite software....and then my now 6 year old said he wanted Star Wars instead.  doh.

We had the cake at home for family time, and I made brownies in muffin tins with Lego Star Wars Toppers on them for his class at school.
He loved his cake, which made his Momma very happy : )  And he was stoked to take awesome Star Wars Brownies to school to share with his classmates, too.

I didn't get to use my froggy cupcake toppers *sniff*, but if any of YOU need frog toppers, here is the set that I made up  Click the pic to make it full size in a new window, then right-click to save it to your desktop and print on a full page.  I may have switched to "Landscape" to print this.
Then I went back and made a "Hoppy Birthday" banner, too!  I haven't tested printing this one, but did make adjustments for all the pages to fit for printing without being cut off at the edge (at least on my printer).  If anyone uses this and has trouble please let me know and I'll try to fix it!  This is my first attempt at making printables, so bear with me.  Also, I would love love LOVE to see a photo of your Hoppy Birthday bash if you use these : )







Today's the last day to enter the My Memories Suite Giveaway! 

You could be creating your own printable birthday sets!  Head on over to enter today and you could win a FREE copy of My Memories Suite software.   

And remember - Even if you don't win the giveaway,
My Memories is offering Craft, Interrupted's readers 
a $10 discount off the My Memories Suite Software  
AND 
a $10 coupon for the My Memories Store!  
Just use the coupon code below at checkout.
STMMMS21095
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