Category Archives: Great Gift Ideas

8 lbs of Powdered Sugar

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Yep – it took 8 lbs of sugar to make 25 Giant Santa Claus Cookies – that and a new(ish) oven.

With the oven possessed, I looked to see if there was anything on cheap Craigslist.  My oven just isn’t worth fixing.  For the near the same amount it might be better just to find a used oven.  Sorting by lowest to highest – I found two ovens listed in my $150 price range – one was a white Bosch oven with no picture.  I didn’t even know Bosch made ovens?

The lady had redone her kitchen and loved her Bosch range but went with all stainless steel.  (I know I’m going to offend EVERYONE here but I hate stainless steel appliances unless they’re used in a modern industrial look)  She texted me pictures and told me it was gas and convection.   She took my offer of $120.00, assured that it went to a good home.

Dr. Malibu came over to test it out.  We put the oven in the self-cleaning mode, lit up the burners and made dinner.  Sautéed breaded chicken, risotto and cauliflower were cooked to perfection.

This delayed my plans of baking.  So Saturday morning with Thing 2 at my side we made another batch of gingerbread and started piping, flooding and flocking.  My kitchen and dining room looked like a bakery exploded.
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The pressure was on this year.  I had to step up my game because last year Kendra pulled out the Salted Carmel Shortbread cookies.  I went with a giant Santa Claus face.   Thing 2 and I were dubious about the design. We’d seen enough pictures on the internet to know this had the potential of a Pinterest Fail.  But those Santa heads turned out great and I was flattered that a few people at the Cookie Exchange were taking pictures with them.   I was especially happy to have the time to spend with my friends who I sometimes only see once a year at this party.  I know I’m not the only mom who feel’s like Cinderella, when every weekend is hijacked by your kids social/school/sport calendar.  This is a mom only party where we can all relax, catch up with each other’s lives and take a moment to breathe!  Oh, and the cookies!  The cookies are just an excuse but there is something so lovely and magical about a table bedecked with a large assortment of delicious baked goods.  It means its Christmas!

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Smells like Burnt Gingerbread

Thing 1 and 2 were with their dad for the next two days, Maui and I were alone, so I was able to begin baking gingerbread for the 6th Annual Cookie Exchange, (using, of course, the Dexter Morgan Method of baking cookies.)

In an undertaking of this scale  (3 large batches) it helps to have multiple baking pans, plenty of silpats, gobs of plastic wrap and copious space available in the apartment sized refrigerator.

Making and preparing the dough is one thing.  Baking is another.

My oven SUCKS.  I think it’s from the 1970’s (gauging from the vintage décor in my kitchen)

The broiler doesn’t like to open.  Its inconveniently positioned all the way at the bottom near the floor and it requires a feat of strength to open or close it.

I’m pretty sure the burners are trying to kill me – especially the front right one.  It plays coy when you go to light it, click, click, click, click, then FOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!    Right when you’ve leaned in closer to see what’s the matter.  Fucker – I see your smirk.

It’s temperamental and cooks uneven – the right side being hotter than the middle or left side.  Everything  needs to be centered slightly to the left.  And it’s really difficult to set the temperature.  I use two temperature gauges in the oven and when the average of the two readings is the temperature I want – I cross my fingers and bake.

I was able to get through half of the baking last night and tried to squeeze in a couple racks of cookies this morning.  I set the oven to warm up and made my morning latte.  When the temperature was right on 350, I popped in the trays, set the timer and walked away.  10 minutes later, the smell of burnt cookies reached me in my bedroom.  Opening the door, I discovered that the left side of the cookies were burnt and the temperature had shot up to 500 degrees!  Yet the knob on the oven was still set at 350!  Arrrggghhh!  With still another batch and a half left to bake, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.  I think I need to start cruising Craigslist for a new oven.

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On your mark, get set – BAKE!

It is Dr. Malibu’s birthday this week (I mention week because every week starting in mid November it’s someone’s birthday in my immediate family).

Dr. Malibu is not a fan of the traditional birthday cake with lighted candles.  But he IS a fan of cherry pie.  After four years of knowing him and him knowing that I’m a baker – he finally put a request in for a pie for Thanksgiving.  Cherry Pie.

So when he held a little impromptu gathering for his birthday at the Boneyard Bistro – I made him this.

In between the birthdays celebrations I have to squeeze in baking for the annual Cookie Exchange held as Ms. Pahukoa’s house next weekend.  The pressure is ON this year.

Every year I bake the same cookie – gingerbread.   Martha Stewarts Gingerbread recipe.   In the past I’ve made snow flakes, reindeer and Santa’s sleigh, Christmas trees and other designs.

But what to do this year?

These cookies are a lot of work.  It takes me a full week to bake enough cookies for 20 – 30 guests.
And I like BIG cookies which means a LOT of cookie dough.

To get a head start – I measured out all the ingredients for three batches – flour, baking soda and baking powder into 3 super-sized Tupperware containers.
Then I measured out all the spices into 3 smaller Ziploc containers.
The pantry was checked to ensure I had all the other ingredients – eggs, molasses and butter.

Ready.  Now all I have to do is mix and bake and bake and bake and then decorate, decorate, decorate.
I’m enlisting Thing 2.

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Custom Made Boot Shapers

Here’s something you didn’t know you needed (until now) Boot Forms! Or boot shapers if you prefer.

Every inch of space is utilized in the Lake Balboa Bungalow.  That’s why one of my favorite pieces of furniture is an antique book case that my mom gave me when I was 13 to house a bell collection.  It fits perfectly into a nook in the hallway.  The shoes are happily showcased here, accessible and safe from puppies with a shoe fetish.

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As you can see, there’s little room for boots and I have too many don’t have a closet big enough.  Previously, my boots were hung in the closet with pant hangers.  I tried those expensive boot forms but they slip out of the boot and break easily.  Somewhere I saw boot forms for sale and realized these would be easy to make and a great way to ensure that my boots stay in good form.  They keep the tops of tall boots from slopping over and prevent damage from the pant hangar clips.

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It’s a quick and easy project.  Because boot styles vary and because few people wear my Cinderella size six, it’s better to make custom forms for each individual pair of boots.   If you’re learning to sew – this is a great project!

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Draft the Pattern:
Lay your boots on some cardstock or cardboard.  A cardboard box or unfolded cereal box will do the trick.
Line up the top of the boots with the top edge of the cardstock/cardboard and the front side with the side edge.

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Note: Boot is wrong direction. Line up the straight edge of the boot with the front or straight side.

Trace down the back side to the heel and stop.

On the straight side, mark approximately where your ankle ends.

Remove the boot and sketch a curved line from the ankle to the heel, rounding the edges.  Cut out your pattern.

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Mark your Fabric:
Fold your fabric right sides together.

Trace the pattern onto your fabric – this is the SEWING line.

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DO NOT CUT on this line.  You will cut about 5/8″ OUTSIDE the line.  No need to be precise here – just give yourself enough room –not too close to the sewing line.  You can trim it AFTER you sew.  I use my serger which does both.

Pin in a few pieces to keep it together.

Make the Loop:
Sew a 7” x 3” rectangle piece of fabric into a tube.  (You should have some scraps left) Turn right side out.

Fold in half and pin with the tab inside the two pieces of fabric, matching the raw edges.

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Sew the Boot Form:
Sew along the pattern line, sewing the tab into the top.  Leave a 2 – 3” gap along the straight edge.

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Turn the fabric right side out and stuff with batting (or scrap fabric) .

Finish the boot by sewing the gap closed either by hand stitching or with your machine.

The tabs are handy to attach a standard pant hangar to hang in your closet or simply to grab to remove the boot.

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Have fun making these!  I’d love to see some pictures of yours!