Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bats in the Belfry

My friend C volunteers her time to help with a local DC after school program; she has a small group of elementary school girls that she works with and I think that the program is great but the timing of the group doesn't work for my schedule. So, C being fantastic, is letting me help her with snack (my little contribution).

In this vein, yesterday C did Halloween themed snacks. She made a really cute graveyard cake and so I thought bats might be a fun accompaniment.

I made brownies and used a sheet pan lined with parchment verses a regular pan so that I could cut the bats out with a cookie cutter. Then I just whipped up some royal icing (quite a bit actually--I am saving some to make pumpkins tonight!) to outline and the eyes are red hots.

In the bat realm, I decided to make some bat themed Halloween cards. I usually plan these things out better but this one, I was just feeling the need to make something.

My craft room is currently lacking in function; Dan had planned to build me a wall of shelving and peg board and I was going to put a tall table in the center...then we found out we might be moving...and all plans were halted.

Thus, I am using a large piece of book board on my floor as a crafting area, much to Remi's amusement! He is a curious little one; he watches patiently for a while, but then he cannot contain the curiosity and must stiff (see above), and I cannot confirm or deny that he ate a few bats...he has a thing for paper.

I used Paper Source Chartreuse and Black (A6 Chartreuse flat cards and text weight paper, and Black A6 envelopes and text weight paper--also for bats). Paper Source carries Martha Stewart craft punches now, so the bats came from a Martha punch using Black and Chartreuse text weight paper and I attached them to the card and envelope using a Xyron (above in pink).

The mini Xyron is one of my favorite gadgets; it turns anything into a sticker (hence the reason it's called a Xyron Create-a-sticker :P). For someone who loves craft punches, not having to use a glue stick to attach tiny pieces of paper is a fantastic thing. You drop your little creation in the top of the X (hole on the right) and at the bottom of the X (where the paper is on the left) you pull the strip and your creation now is on a sticker sheet with sticky on the back--ta da!

I lined the envelopes with the PS Chartreuse dot wrapping paper (you can buy this in individual sheets from the flat paper wall or you can get it on a roll; I have the roll because this is great to have on hand for generic birthdays and it is easy to store with the rest of my wrapping paper).

In the past I thought that envelope liners were silly but the PS liner kit makes it really easy and you can use any type of paper you want.

I thought that in all they turned out well; I added little eyes later that are not shown in any of the photos. Hope everyone has a great Halloween!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cafe Bonaparte, DC

Several friends had told me that Cafe Bonaparte was a tasty spot for breakfast, brunch, dinner, dessert, etc. so I decided to give it a whirl on my day off. Crepe's originate from Brittany, France, a large peninsula in the north west of France; from photos it looks like a divine place to go on vacation...I'm adding this to my list of places to go...along with a note to brush up on my French!
Back to the cafe; they are located off of Wisconsin in Georgetown, about four blocks from M (after you pass P street you are close...stop in and see Heidi at Poppy on P if they are open...cute custom jewelry shop). The atmosphere is quaint with a fitting European bistro feel and the staff were very friendly. Their menu boasts that they are known for their espresso drinks and their crepes, so I decided to stick within this realm.

I started with a French Vanilla Latte, which is a delightful combo of hazelnut and vanilla. I am often disappointed with coffee drinks at restaurants; living in DC with so many wonderful coffee joints (i.e. Peregrine Espresso, Baked and Wired) I have developed a discerning palate when it comes to joe; I would love to go to barista school in Seattle some day...we'll see! However, this was surprisingly delightful (though with whipped cream, hazelnut, vanilla, and espresso...there isn't much to dislike here for me!)

I ordered a savory Ham, Egg and Cheese Crepe; I was VERY tempted to order a sweet version and will certainly do so next time but this sounded yummy and simple, and indeed it was. I must admit that I am no crepe connoisseur (I have only had a handful in my lifetime) but for a budding crepe taster, this hit the spot and I would certainly go back to try something else from their menu.

Hopefully one Friday afternoon I will be able to grab some friends and head here for a little treat; I will report back with any new findings.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Last Sunday we had an office Octoberfest party at my Chief's house; he worked at a Japanese steak house when he was in high school/college and so he makes a mean fried rice and teriyaki chicken.

He made all of the food for the main feast but asked that we bring desserts and drinks; I of course brought a surprise there.

The day actually started off with me standing in line for the WH garden tour (first pic); it is October, but it has been unseasonably warm and though it was a beautiful day my choice of attire was entirely inappropriate and I was just flat out hot.

I arrived late (trying to find parking near the WH) so I missed my friends and then ended up not actually going on the tour. The line was seriously long, I had been before and my WH buddy said it wasn't work the wait...I had a ton of stuff to do that I hightailed it back home.

Dan spent most of the week on business travel so it was just me and Remster to fend for ourselves (we did fine--I actually become rather productive when he is away.)

However, I am seriously contemplating baby gates for our house because when I'm cooking he feels that it is his time for mayhem in the basement and inevitably he destroys something while I am distracted in the kitchen.

This recipe is pretty straightforward, yet a bit time consuming due to the steps in the process. I also can only fit 2 sheet pans comfortably in my oven at any given time (and it is not convection) so I'm a bit more limited there. Read, I started this recipe at 2pm and I was not finished until after 4pm.

I am not 100% satisfied with this yet (I never am really...need to work on this!)--I might add more spice next time I make these--thought they needed a little extra something. I've found a new butter love (above), Lurpak.

I am a sucker for cream cheese frosting, so this was right up my alley--pecans might be a good addition to the filling for next time....

I individually wrapped the pies in clear plastic wrap like I did for the oatmeal cream pies (they travel much better this way). Then I added a little sticker to the back so that they stayed together better.

For the "sticker" I used 2.5" circle Paper Source labels in Poppy and just stamped them with a pumpkin rubber stamp I got from PS last year in a brown chalk ink. I wrote the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie part with a brown micron pen and the other little bit is just my personal mark.

The recipe came from the Brown Eyed Baker site and I slightly modified it from her original.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling
For the "pies" a loose term only because they are more like little cakes.
3 cups AP Flour
2 1/4 tablespoons Ceylon cinnamon (I basically do 2 hefty tablespoons because I love it so)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 cups canned pumpkin (basically 1 and 1/2 cans--use the rest of the pumpkin for pasta...recipe to come later!)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Maple-Cream Cheese Filling
2 cups powdered sugar (do this to taste--I like a bit of tang from the cream cheese--original recipe calls for 3 cups of powdered sugar--I literally open a box of confectioner's sugar and add until it is to my taste)
8 ounces Philly cream cheese, (i.e. one brick) at room temp; Philly is the best--I've tried to go organic with this and the texture is just not there.
4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temp
3 tablespoons maple syrup (grade B is best--I used grade A because I had that in my pantry!)
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract (or a bit of vanilla bean paste would do well also)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or a silpat

2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients: AP flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the two sugars...granulated and dark brown with the oil to emulsify. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Crack your eggs in a small bowl, whisk to break up, add the vanilla to this bowl then slowly incorporate into your wet ingredients

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until combined. A rubber spatula is also of good use here.

5. Use a small cookie scoop to drop a rounded tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. The dough is really rather dense so I had to tap my baking sheet on the counter (on a towel to protect the granite) to make them spread a bit--otherwise they don't spread much.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating your sheet half way through, pull when a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. The "cookies" should feel firm when touched--like a pumpkin bread. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.

7. To make the filling, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth with no visible lumps, about 3 minutes. It is imperative that both the butter and cream cheese are room temp or this will not be pretty! Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth, roughly 2 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar, drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla on low until combined.

8. To assemble the whoopie pies: Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Dollop the filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie and you have a nice sandwich. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Remi's Halloween Spirit

As you can tell, Remi is not into clothing--he prefers to be in the fur alone. In fact, he has a true disdain for any sort of clothing be it a jacket, hat, etc. (please recall the elf hat from last Christmas!) However, I still dress him up--he just looks so darn cute I cannot help myself.

Dan and I have the perfect Halloween costume idea for Remi, but unfortunately the little elf seamstress of the household (i.e. moi) does not have time to execute the idea this year...stay tuned for next year.

Thus, this year we go with plan B; we are thinking maybe a pumpkin...every "kid" has to be a pumpkin their first Halloween right?!!?!?

However, when stopping in OTSFD for a new Ed, a canvas toy that Remi loves but it soon becomes a cesspool of yuk and must be replaced, I could not pass up this cute t-shirt (the ghosts glow in the dark!) I also picked up a fleece ball in purple, orange and black for Halloween; it has been a big hit thus far, and Remi hasn't destroyed it; I'll post pics eventually.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Cards

As previously stated, I love Fall! At the end of the month the ladies in my office and I have planned an apple picking outing (a necessary endeavor around these parts); originally I was going to make an invitation because I am old fashioned and I love to receive mail. I came up with a red and orange design plan and made a mock invite.

However, I realized that I had already seen/spoken with all of the ladies we would invite through various social occasions so an invitation was really just a formality. Thus, I decided to send my little creations to a select group of friends and family instead.

I used all Paper Source products (naturally--I love that place!); red 5 3/4 inch square envelopes, their apple stamp with white chalk ink stamp pad (seen in first photo).

They have great fall pumpkin and vine flat paper on clearance (basically pumpkins and vines printed on paper bag colored paper, and you cannot beat it at 1/2 off!!); I used their square envelope liner template to create the cute liner seen above to tie in my fall red and persimmon color palate.

For the card itself I just free handed an apple shape on red cover weight paper (to create a template--I traced my shape to make copies on red text weight to use for the cards). I used a glue stick to attach the red apple to a square persimmon card and just free handed a stem in chocolate text and the leaf in chartreuse text to attach for more interest

I used a brown Faber-Castell artist pen M tip #175 and wrote the person's name on the leaf and used the apple shape to write text. I think that they turned out really well and I hope that my family and friends enjoy receiving them!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

Ever since living in the NE I look forward to Fall the most out of any season. It is sad really, by August I am itching for Fall weather, pumpkins and apples. The last few years we have gone to a pick-your-own apple orchard. This year I'm going apple picking with my office girls so Dan and I decided to take Remi to a pumpkin patch.

Hollin Farms is about 45 minutes outside of D.C. in Delaplane, VA. Once you get off the beaten path and turn into the farm (the shed pictured first is where you turn in); you follow the little pumpkin signs around what seems like an endless rocky road, but picturesque (see above).

When you finally arrive to the patch you are greeted by a sweet scene with a few carts of gourds, an apple stand and a hot dog stand (the farm is really known for their beef).

It had rained for the past week so we were a bit concerned that it would be super muddy (hence the wellies seen in below shots); however, the farm had lots of hay down and you hardly noticed any dampness because of it.

We chose Hollin Farms because they allow dogs on leashes to join in the family fun; we thought Remi would like to help pick our pumpkins! Also, it gives us a chance to socialize Remi more; our breeder recommended us to take him out in public and have him interact with different folks, kids etc. so we've tried to do that as much as we can.

The patch was really beautiful; it is set up on a hill with the mountains in the background. There was a cool breeze blowing through the field and since we went on a Sunday afternoon it wasn't crowded at all.

Remi had a blast; as soon as we reached the farm we rolled down our windows in the car and he was sniffing the air madly trying to decipher all of the new scents.

He even picked his own pumpkin! Okay, not really, this was totally staged (clearly :P), but we did take this pumpkin home.

Remi tried to eat the stem of my pumpkin (punk!) Then he proceeded to knock me on my bumper! Actually, he just jumped up to try and lick me and instead of trying to catch myself with my hand (lots of briers); I plopped on my rear...but...I didn't know that there was an incline there so I rolled all the way on my back. Dan, Mr. paparazzi at this point caught in all on camera and proceeded to laugh at me while I laid helplessly in the patch Remi standing on top of me...licking my face (naturally!)

We founds some beautiful deep orange saucer shaped pumpkins and Dan had the idea of stacking them up like a snowman--this lovely little tower is on our porch next to Remi's pumpkin!

We didn't get the memo that the farm does not provide carts, however, thankfully we were only wanting a few pumpkins. One family brought their modified little red wagon; next year--note to self--bring wagon!

I was milling around trying to find a good pie pumpkin before we checked out and Dan pssst me over to show me his find. There were little tiny pumpkins among the patch; being a girl and loving all things miniature I thought that this was just fantastic--need to bring a zip bag for gathering these next year (along with the wagon).