Saturday, June 29, 2013

Goodbye Google Reader - Hello Something Better!

Google Reader will be no more on Monday, July 1st.  But...over time, many of us have learned that often change brings opportunity!

OK... so this has been confusing to lots of folks!  First of all, they aren't ending Google Friend Connect so if you have a blog, you will still see all of your followers.  And if you follow blogs (I follow LOTS), you can easily keep following them by just finding a new reader!

I have found two newer, better replacements that will transfer my whole blog list with just a click or two!

I love Feedly!  To check it out, click here or click the icon:

And who doesn't love choices?  You might just love Bloglovin too!  Click here or click the icon:

And just between you and me, I follow my very favorite blogs by email.  I get new posts sent right to me that way and I never miss a beat!  If you think that is helpful, you can find a "Follow By Email" box on my sidebar!  Just enter your email and you will be sent a confirmation.  Click it to prove that you really do want to follow and you are in!

For me, I sometimes find it easier to follow along a favorite blogger when they just happen to be where I am naturally.  If this describes you too, I have links to my Facebook page and Pinterest boards also on my sidebar to the right!

OK- so that's my bloggy PSA!  I know this makes two non-crafty posts in a row!  My apologies!  I plan to fix that this weekend with a little card-making!  Hope to share very soon-- I just didn't want to have a party and no one show up!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day Trip to the New American Girl Store!

This time of year is the very busiest for my family and for our family-owned businesses.  No summer vacations for us but I do try to fill the days with some fun for my sweet kiddo, Piper, usually in the form of camps, classes, and an occasional day trip!  This past Sunday, I gave her a whole, precious summer day!  A whole, free day is hard to come by for me until autumn but with a smartphone, I was able to do some of my work away from the office so we could go to the new American Girl store that opened this past weekend at Easton in northeast Columbus, Ohio!

Let me first say that we have never been to a Grand Opening at an American Girl store, and my nine-year-old has never been to any AG store, despite her doll love!  I was going to surprise her with a trip, but she regularly visits and saw the announcements months ago!  She has been saving her money for this trip, even working as a MoonPie mascot at one of our outdoor events (not her favorite job)!

I had gotten in around 2AM after working out-of-town Saturday and got some much-needed sleep before I picked Piper up from a sleepover.   Not an early start, but off we went, the two of us, having no idea of the kind of adventure we would have, but knowing that no matter what, we were going to have fun with this special day!

Driving by myself is never a problem and this was only about a four-hour drive from where we live. We arrived around 3:00.  My GPS only got us to the Easton Town Center, an outdoor mall of sorts set up in city blocks.  The flowers and 'mood' of the area was a treat in itself!  Streets were closed off for an art fair they were having and for the store opening!  Finding a parking spot was only tough because I had no idea how close we were to the actual store!  A miracle happened though and we were only about a block from the ticket tent.


Well, yes.  They have so many thousands of girls and their families attend these that they set up large groups of tickets and entry is only permitted when your ticket group is called.  Happily, they text you as the group entry number is updated so waiting shoppers can go to other stores, eat, or even leave and return later!  (We checked out the Lego store!)

The fun thing is that all the nearby stores and restaurants were in on the fun!  A lady on the street overheard Piper and me talking about what to do while waiting for our number.  She told us a horror story about the day before:  apparently her family got there at noon and weren't permitted to enter until 7PM.  Holy cow.  She pointed us toward the California Pizza Kitchen for lunch, where they had doll chairs!  (That's a favorite place for Piper.  As she says, the taste of the pizza matters more to kids than to anyone!) The restaurant was filled with girls and their dolls, like the whole area.  That really made it even more fun!

The horror stories from Saturday, happily were not repeated on Sunday, and our ticket number was texted to my phone just as we were leaving the restaurant!  Perfect timing!  We got in line and waited to be allowed in.

While we were in line, they made everyone as comfortable as possible on a hot, sunny day by offering umbrellas and handing out cold, bottled waters.  We were entertained by a lady on stilts and a juggler.

Once inside, it was like little girl heaven...

Piper brought one of her own dolls to experience the doll salon.  Her doll's stylist, Natasha, gave her all kinds of tips, like using a toothbrush to smooth doll hair and how to make a doll beauty treatment using baking soda.  We also learned that you should never get doll eyes wet... because they RUST!!  (Who knew?)

They gave all the girls who came for the Grand Opening a book.  (Nice surprise!)  Piper had a custom doll t-shirt made, picked up lots of accessories, and left with a spa kit to use at home on her dolls... which she did first thing the next day!

It was a fantastic day that had us home around midnight.  Piper thanked me all day long and we really loved our adventure together!  Definitely time well spent!  I made her pose for one last photo... here you can see the corporate folks, sweating it out in dark suits, guarding the front door of the store after closing--- still full of excited young shoppers and their parents inside!

Thank you for letting me share our adventure!  This week is supposed to be digital photography camp for Piper, but there has been a change of plans so she has lots of time to play with dolls!  Next up, a jewelry-making class she is taking Wednesday.  She will be entering her project in the 4H Fair, something I had no idea we even had here!  Back to work for me!  Hope your summer is filled with family time ....and more crafting than mine!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cinderella, Cinderella, All I Hear is Cinderella

 My friends and family on Instagram and Facebook probably feel that all they have heard from me is 'Cinderella' these days.  That is because my kiddo attends a special ballet school that produces a full ballet at the end of the spring term in lieu of a regular recital.  All the girls participate, from tiniest with the smallest parts and easiest dances to the graduating seniors who have specially-choreographed solos and starring roles to everyone in between.  It is unique and special and heavily involves parent volunteers who create sets and costumes, and fulfill all duties outside of the performance itself... well, actually some dads do perform too!  It requires a big time commitment from the students, parents, and fabulous teachers (all two of them!!) and it always feels worth it in the end!  This is my daughter's fourth ballet.  This year, as you may have guessed, they performed Cinderella.

I have been the room mother for the past couple of years for my child's class, a job that I really love.  This year, she was moved to a class that meets twice a week and we just adore the sweet girls and moms we have gotten to know this year!  Each year, Piper gives her classmates a keepsake for the ballet for opening night.  This year, it was necklaces.  Since all the girls usually are given fresh flowers for opening night by family and friends, her gift is something a little different.

These were super easy to do. (Thank you Sandie for helping me at Archivers!  I had my friend and crafty genius point me to those great bottle cap pendant bases.  Check out her blog, Chic Green Dragonfly.)

I printed out the text on my computer onto scrapbooking paper and used a 1" punch to cut them out.

I glued them into the bottle caps...

...and I used the negative space from a Martha Stewart punch to get little stars (my child's class danced the parts of the stars and the hours)...

....and outlined the paper with Glossy accents and added iridescent crystal glitter to edge the paper.

I filled in the surface of the bottle cap with Glossy Accents to seal it.  Magically, the glitter tends to move around a bit.  That was a happy accident.  The Glossy Accents require a few hours to dry.  As it dries, I noticed that air bubbles would surface so I tried to catch and pop them as soon as they appeared.

I found 2.4mm ball chain by the roll with clasps and charms at Hobby Lobby.  The combination of the sale going on and the fact that this is dance recital time, meant that finding ballet shoe charms was not going to happen!  Actually, finding eleven of any one charm was impossible so we mixed them up a bit.  I used 9mm jump rings to join the charms and the pendent to the ball chain.  The chain was cut at 24".

My kiddo requested a green one.

To package them, I cut inserts from glitter paper using Cricut Holiday Frames and Tags at 2-3/4".  I used a star hand-punch and cut slits from the edge to the stars for the chain to fit into.

I made boxes using Cricut Bridal Shower, cut at 9-3/4".

Cut at this size, the box bottom is 2-3/4" square; the top is 3" square.  The finished thickness is 2-1/8" so I used a little Dacron upholstery batting cut-to-fit to put in the bottoms.

I was so happy with the final gift.  I hope they liked them.

For my daughter's opening night gift, and because the grandparents always get her flowers, my daughter always receives three gifts from us:  a book of some sort related to the story of the ballet, a music CD from the ballet, and something completely unrelated to the ballet, but that I know she wants.  For her gifts, I used a kraft paper bag, my 'test' bottle cap charm, and an extra necklace insert to make a tag.

Each year, we have a reception after the second performance where mom volunteers bring fruit and desserts for a little treat table.  This year, I found a recipe that I altered a bit for Pink Lemonade Cookies.  I wanted to share that with you too.

I started with a recipe I found at the Tasty Kitchen website.  Click here for their recipe, that they call Pink Lemonade Gooey Butter Cookies.  I loved that they used a cake mix to make it fast and then added touches like fresh lemon zest!  (The cake mix I used was Pillsbury Moist Supreme Pink Lemonade Premium Cake Mix, 15.25oz).  It makes a nice, stiff dough that is really pretty and reminds me of the color of "ballet pink" tights.

I will say that I changed the recipe a bit:

  • I use Butter-flavor Crisco for my cookies.   (My fellow foodies are probably shaking their heads at this, but honestly it keeps cookies from going flat so I always use it instead of dairy butter in cookie recipes).
  • I used Vanilla Sugar instead of plain granulated sugar for the first rolling.  (To make vanilla sugar, just add a vanilla bean, cut and split, to regular or super-fine granulated sugar.  Sometimes I will use the vanilla bean first in vodka to make homemade vanilla extract and then dry the bean off and use it in the sugar.  Keep it in an air-tight container and in a few weeks, you have vanilla-infused sugar!   As you use it up, just add more plain sugar!)
  • Not so sure the author's cookies came out of the oven looking like the picture.  The condensation of a cooling cookie, as we all know, will dissolve powdered sugar with its fine texture very easily.  Even with the first roll in granulated sugar and second roll in powered sugar, I used a sifter and added more powdered sugar right out of the oven, and on at least one batch, I added it twice.  
Right out of the oven.
The cookies on the left were fresh out of the oven and just powered.  The ones on the right were almost cooled.  The sugar dissolves as they cool.   Really, they are best just like they appear on the right so your guest doesn't end up with sugar all over her dress and lap!
  • Because I was in a time crunch, even as my dough got soft, I did not refrigerate it.  My sugar-coated hands kept the dough from sticking to me.
  • I wanted these to sparkle a bit so I found edible glitter at a nearby cake supply store.  If you are looking for a source for this stuff, check out my local supplier, Bryant's Cake and Candy Supplies. They ship from their on-line store.  It comes in all kinds of colors, like silver and florescent pink.  This is the Rainbow (which is like Crystal Aurora Borealis or CAB).  It was subtle; next time I am trying the silver!  This is added after the cookies are baked, sugared, and cooled.  

This recipe made a really tasty cookie with a tender crumb, wonderful texture, lovely color, and fresh lemon flavor.  Unlike the indication from the title, they are not gooey inside (happily), but owe much to the cream cheese baked in them!  They are my new favorite cookie!

This is always such a busy time of year, but this experience is so meaningful to our family and to my daughter that it is more than worth it!

Cinderella 2013 - click photo for close up

....And it is a good thing because I found out that for the next two ballets I will will be trained to take over for the mom who is the lead coordinator for the production.  (Her daughter graduates in two years).  Honestly, I am really looking forward to it... and to the many years and many ballets my daughter will get to perform in!

Thank you for checking my blog post!  I hope you are having a fun and happy summer!  Ballet performance week kicks off the first official week of summer kid programs for us.  Next up:  Guitar Camp!

Sumo's Sweet Stuff
Keeping It Simple

But wait! There's more! Click 'older posts' above!

But wait!  There's more!  Click 'older posts' above!