Tuesday, May 31, 2011

School's Out.....for Summer

I have the urge to break out into song, feel free to hum along.....

note: Alice Cooper lives in Phoenix (more accurately Scottsdale) Arizona, near where we used to live. I've never met him personally, but apparently he is quite an upstanding and philanthropic member of the community. So much for his Shock Rocker image of the 70's.

Little K finished up school last week and her class decided on a Movie Star Party to celebrate.

That celebration was in addition to the other activities that have been going on at school in the past few weeks:

Field trip to the Aquatic Center
Music Recital
3 Day Overnight Trip to Coloma, CA
(where gold was first discovered)
4th Grade Water Play Day

Phew - I am definitely ready for summer vacation after all that!

As much as I wanted to do all the planning for their Movie Star Party, Little K's teacher convinced me that the kids were more than capable of taking care of most of the details themselves.

As a perfectionist amateur party planner who has control issues - those are fightin' words.

In retrospect - the kids has some amazing ideas for their party and did a great job pulling it all together.

I managed to take control of making the cupcakes. This was a perfect time to try out the Popcorn Cupcakes from the Hello Cupcake book.

I used a different technique for the popcorn than described in the book.

Marshmallow Popcorn

Bowl of popcorn?
Nope - they are made from mini marshmallows, cut and squished to look like popcorn kernels.

I used the yellow mini marshmallows (from the pastel bag) and also white mini marshmallows.

Marshmallow Popcorn

With a pair of scissors, cut into each of the marshmallows (about 1/2 way down). I used a different number of cuts for each. (in the photo above from L to R: 3, 3, 2, 4)

Then dip the cut marshmallow in powdered sugar (because the inside of a mallow is very sticky) and squish it with your fingers (also dipped in powdered sugar). Squeezing the bottom uncut portion of the marshmallow so it opens up like a flower, and then flattening each of the cut sections.

Popcorn Cupcake

I added the popcorn marshmallows to the frosted top of vanilla cupcakes. If you plan on making these - be warned. It takes a lot of marshmallows to cover the cupcakes, so mine ended up looking a little sparse after making enough for 30 students.

Given more time, I would have found/made red and white striped cupcake papers, but I still think they turned out cute - a little plain, but cute.

Box of Popcorn Cupcakes

I made a few mini cupcakes and put them in a popcorn box - just for fun.

Popcorn Cupcakes

Now that I think about it - real popcorn would have tasted good as well (sweet and salty)

Popcorn Cupcakes Minis

The Movie Stars loved them.

All the Party decorations were created by the students (with some on-sight supervision - I just couldn't stay away).

Movie Star Decorations

The classroom was dressed up with the Hollywood Hills, Stars from the Walk of Fame, and a Red Carpet covered in balloons and bordered with red paper chain ropes.

Autograph books

They collected autographs from their movie star classmates.

Gift Buckets

And we put together simple prize buckets for some of the games.

The paparazzi was on hand to snap pictures of all our Stars including Jack Black, Hagrid, Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow, Charlie Sheen, Bethany Hamilton, Quinn Fabray, Taylor Swift and Brittany Pierce. Even their teacher got into character and came dressed as Rapunzel.

It was a great way to end the year. Looking forward to summer relaxation, if only the weather would cooperate.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tired and Uninspired

I've been a bit uninspired when it comes to packing Little K's Lunches lately.

I still pack nearly every day - but I don't often take a picture. The last time I made a post about them was over a year ago.

I'm not quite sure why I'm losing my motivation?

Maybe it's because she's been more picky in her food likes lately?

Maybe it's because she really dislikes the school lunches - and I'm feeling the pressure to have to pack every day?

Maybe it's because I've been making them in the mornings, and I feel more rushed (instead of at night like I used to)?

Could be any - and all - of those things.

Spring Lunch

This is one of the better ones I have created lately. Back in April when we had a string of nice sunny days and I was inspired to make a Spring Themed lunch.

Chicken Nuggets

But more often they look like this. At least the added flower and cut out cucumber makes it a bit more photo worthy.

English Muffin Sandwich

Or this - down to just a flower - not even a cute cut out shape.

Fettuccine in Butter

Leftovers from the night before - and a dish of crackers. How lame is that? At least I had a homemade brownie bite to include.

Leftover KFC

The dinner leftovers in this one were not even home made - KFC chicken strips.

Mini Sausage Picks

But then I decided I need to cut myself a break!

I have to remember what my goals were when I first started packing Little K's Bento Lunches:

ONE - to do my part and reduce waste
TWO - to give my daughter healthy and nutritious lunches

While they may not always be the cutest (or photo worthy) lunches, I think I'm still accomplishing my goals.

By the way - I packed my first Laptop and Bento Lunches over 2 years ago. For those of you that know what a short attention span I have - I'm pretty proud of myself.

I don't even want to count how many bentos I've packed in that time - or how many plastic baggies I've kept out of the landfills.

While I may not post about the lunches I make - I often add them to my flickr gallery that you can see here - or over on the sidebar in "My Bento Lunch Gallery".

So what do you think - should I start taking pictures of even the not so clever or cute bentos as well? It's kind of fun to see how my style has changed since I started. Maybe some day I'll even add up how many I've made.

Anybody else tired of packing lunches yet?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

We stopped by the farm stand on Saturday and picked up a flat of fresh berries. I had planned on making some Strawberry Kiwi Jam, but that will have to wait because we ate them all up...almost.

Strawberries remind me of summer. They were my favorite fruit as a kid. They were always ripe around my birthday in June (when we lived in Pennsylvania). Here in California, they have been in season for at least a month, so I figured it was time to indulge in a taste of Summer.

Strawberry Shortcake

I have to admit. I usually make Strawberry Shortcake using that container of pre-made red gel that they sell in the produce department. But this time, I didn't have any - and I knew there had to be a way to make something better from scratch.

I was quite impressed with the results.

Strawberry Shortcake Fruit Filling

4 pints of berries, tops cut off, washed and quartered
1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste if needed)
1/4 cup of pomegranate juice (any fruit juice will work)
1 tsp. almond extract
Cornstarch and water

Combine 2 pints of the berries and sugar in saucepan and stir to coat. Allow the berries to sit without heat for approx 15 minutes until the berries begin to release their juices. Add fruit juice and cook mixture until fruit is bubbly and soft, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and carefully puree fruit mixture with a stick blender. Continue cooking on medium heat.

Mix a few tablespoons of cornstarch with water until dissolved. Add cornstarch to fruit mixture (in small batches) stirring continuously until thickened. Add additional cornstarch mixture as needed depending on how thick you like your sauce. The berry sauce will look clear and shiny (not creamy or opaque) when done. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract.

Allow sauce to cool - add remaining 2 pints of cut and washed berries.

This sauce is so yummy. The addition of the almond really makes is special. I can think of dozens of uses for the sauce alone (without the berries) - in lemonade, on waffles, as an ice cream topping, with splash of vodka on the rocks. I may have to make another batch.

shortcake close up

For the Shortcake portion - I use the recipe on the Bisquick box. My only change is that I use cream instead of milk, and maybe a bit more sugar.

The trick is to not overwork the dough while you are mixing it, or forming it into biscuits. It will be sticky and crumbly, and that's OK - they are supposed to look rustic. I also brush the tops with some butter - because everything is better with butter (and bacon, but I couldn't work that into this recipe).

We enjoyed these little beauties with dinner tonight - and have just enough to have another serving tomorrow night - or maybe for breakfast?

Now if only the rain would stop - it would really begin to feel like Summer. Hope you all had a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ten on Ten: May

A photo taken every Hour, for Ten consecutive hours, on the Tenth of the month.

A way to document our day, and as a reminder that there is beauty in the ordinary.





















Hard to believe the school year is coming to an end and summer will be here soon. Hope you all are having a great week.

You can read more about this fun monthly photographic adventure on Rebekah's Blog.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day

There will be no bouquet of flowers for my Mom (from me) this year.
(last year they arrived not looking so great)

There will be no hand made card.
(I forgot to put the house number on the store bought card, so that may not arrive either)

There will be no Mother Daughter Lunch.
(We haven't lived near each other in almost 30 years)


But there will be Love sent across the miles.

And a Wish that we could be together.

With much Gratitude for all that she has done.

And Pride that she's my Mum.

Happy Mothers Day!

Mothers love is peace. It need not be acquired. It need not be deserved. ~ Erich Fromm

Friday, May 6, 2011

Teachers Appreciation 2011

We are coming to the end of Teachers Appreciation Week.

At Little K's new school - the PTA does a great job coordinating the efforts throughout all the classrooms. They put out a schedule suggesting ways to show your appreciation to the teachers on each of the days of the week. You have the option to participate in as many days as you like.

Monday - the Teachers were all greeted with the outside of their Classroom Doors Decorated.

Door Decoration

I was a bit worried - because her teacher is not much of a cook - but I loved the idea of showing how she nurtures and develops her students.

Recipe Card

The recipe card spells it all out.

Cooking Close Up

I went with a clean - sort of retro style to fit her teachers personality. She loved it.

Funny Story Side Note: I went to the school early on Monday morning (it's an outdoor campus) to put up the door decoration. As I'm working - a bright flashing light starts to go off (like the fire alarm, but white) - and then a voice comes over the loud speaker. "Unauthorized Activity Detected - Photo Taken".

YIKES - apparently the school has motion detectors, and when I started working on the door - I tripped the alarm. Picture me - in my sweats, no morning shower yet, and my hair barely combed. That's going to be one lovely picture.

Luckily - I had already seen the custodian on the grounds, and she told me not to worry about it. Apparently all the other Room Parents put up their decorations on Sunday - Oops.

Tuesday - was the day that each child brought in an individual flower. The roses are all in full bloom here - so she ended up with a beautiful bouquet.

Contemporary Vase

I brought a vase in to hold all the beautiful blooms. She has a bit of a contemporary style, so I went with something more modern. Added a strip of paper and twine as an accent.

Thank You Tag

And a stacked tag. The outer one says "Thanks". The one underneath says "for helping our kids bloom".

School Bouquet

Wednesday - the kids were asked to bring in a home made card or note.

Thursday - was the day to bring in any Gift Cards. I asked for her teachers input before hand and suggested some of her favorite stores to the parents.

Friday - was Fruit Basket day. The kids brought in a single piece of fruit.

Fruit Basket

We've had a huge participation from the kids so far - I hope the basket is big enough to hold all the fruity bounty.

Fruity Thanks

I made a print using Wordle and some corny fruit sayings, and attached it to the basket handle.

Apple Cosy

This is the piece of fruit Little K brought in for her. We had to dress it up just a little. Isn't this apple cosy adorable?

I can't take the credit - I found the pattern here, and sent the materials to my Mom to crochet (since that's something I was never able to master).

Apple Cosy Collage

She had so much fun making them - she whipped up a few extra. Guess what Little K's teachers are getting next year!

In addition to all the individual classroom efforts, the PTA also acknowledges all the Teachers with a Breakfast (on Monday), Lunch (on Wednesday) and Car Wash (on Friday).

Happy Teachers Appreciation Week to all our Teachers - and Thank You for all that you do!