Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rainbow Cupcakes

Well well well...
What a dreary, rainy and gloomy few days we've had here in Southern California this week.

Most of you know, I'm a Kansas girl. So I know a thing or two about bad weather, yellow brick roads and places over the rainbow at the end of the storm. It got me to thinking, now that the rain has cleared, I'm stuck inside with a sleeping toddler. I won't be able to enjoy the rainbow even if I wanted to. So I'll just make my own.

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350º. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Divide evenly into 6 bowls, coloring each individual bowl with its own color until you have one each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.

BE CAREFUL with your food coloring. This stuff gets everywhere and it isn't easy to get out!

Add a small scoop full of each color, without mixing, into each paper liner. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

For Icing:

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

(Remember! If you don't have powered confectioners sugar laying around, you can always put regular granulated sugar in your food processor for a few seconds and make your own!)

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Clearly you have the option of going to the store and buying your own sprinkles. But since you've handmade everything else in this recipe, why not make your own sprinkles as well? All it takes is a few teapsoons of sanding sugar (the larger and coarser looking sugar), mixed with one or two drops of food coloring. If you are too much of a hurry to let the sprinkles dry, pop them in the oven for 5 minutes on 325º!

Store them in old baby food jars or whatever other jars you have laying around the house for future use.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leaving Kansas, Come Again! (PART 2)

I'm taking a great leap in faith here hoping that you've read the prelude to this story.  If not, you should. Or else you wont understand how I ended up here in the first place.

Ok, so I had been living in the hostel for a wonderful, magical, never repeatable, once in a life time opportunity full of day trip journeys, new friendships and self discovery. I had fallen very hard for a guy traveling from Germany named Peter who had just left the states for Europe to regretfully return to work. He was in America for a few short weeks, we met just days after his arrival. It was a whirlwind of young love and I was convinced that we had set out on our personal paths just to cross here at this hostel. I was desperate to get to Germany and follow my heart.
My hostel-mates Jessie and August had also shown interest in branching off on their own. In early March we reluctantly made the decision to go our inevitable separate ways. I was going to save money and fly to Germany to be with Peter, Jessie was going to continue on to Hawaii, and August was going to go back to Idaho for a little while and then travel to Spain. But just as we were packing our bags and hugging and swearing to meet up every summer no matter what, Jessie got a call from a friend of hers that she used to know back in high school. He was just getting out of the US Marine Corps and was staying in a little beach town called San Clemente, about half way between Los Angeles and San Diego. He knew Jessie was traveling somewhere in California and wanted her to make the trip down to say hi before she took off to Hawaii. Jessie tried to convince us to join her, but August was ready to be done traveling for a while and I really needed to save up some cash. So she suggested the idea that her and I could camp for a couple weeks at San Clemente State Beach, split the $18 a night fee, get temporary jobs at wherever was hiring, and then take off at the end of the month with a little extra money in our pockets. Seemed logical enough to me. So away we went.
Saying goodbye to August was heartbreaking for all of us. I think the fact that Jessie and I were going together and leaving her behind made it harder to swallow. The three of us had grown so incredibly close that the idea of splitting up the pack was gut wrenching. We had our last beer together on the back porch of the hostel. I remember the lattice behind the bench was covered in flowers and although the smell was so beautiful it would knock you off your feet, we constantly had to battle with the bees. Anyway, we cried and drank and hugged and made promises and cried some more. That was the last time I ever saw August.

So Jessie and I drove PCH all the way from San Luis Obispo to San Clemente. In hindsight, we probably could have taken the freeway to make the trip faster but that wasn't what it was about for us. The view was what it was about for us. The trip down was what it was about for us. Driving in Santa Barbara and L.A. traffic on a Friday afternoon was what it was about for us. We wanted to try it all. Good, bad or indifferent, we wanted to try it all.

Hours later, we finally made it to our site, pitched our tiny tent, and made a temporary home for ourselves. The next morning when we awoke to the gorgeous sound of crashing waves, we unzipped the tent, walked outside and looked at our new backyard. The sun was shinning, I swear to god the ocean was transparent, and the palm trees were standing proud. I just remember thinking my god. This is the best decision I have ever made. 

That afternoon, after a big breakfast and an even bigger pot of coffee, we went into town to look for Help Wanted signs and immediately found one at the coffee shop right down the street. "Surfin' Donuts" had been a part of San Clemente for years. It was busy, it was friendly, and it had an ocean view. Perfect. We went in, spoke with the manager, explained our "situation" (of course leaving out the part that we were going to split town in 2 weeks) and just like that we had ourselves a couple of legit, on the book jobs. We were to open the shop 5 days a week at 5am. 5am? Really? I don't think he understood how cold 5am was when you're crawling out of a sleeping bag to run across the park in your pajamas, fumbling your quarters to make the pay-only showers warm up before you freeze to death. But ok. 5am it is.
The first week was a nightmare. If getting used to a schedule and sleeping in the cold wasn't bad enough, the California Parks had a 5 day maximum occupancy rule. So every 5 days we had to pack up everything we owned and move it to San Mateo Campgrounds across the freeway. We were exhausted and sick the majority of the time but with no rent to pay, we were starting to really save some money. It wasn't like we were homeless beggars. We lived great, with only what we needed. We ate the best healthy food money could buy, we drank fancy red wine by the campfire and made friends with new neighbors every night. Not a care in the world except enjoying ourselves before we had to say our goodbyes. I had been talking to Peter every day, for at least a couple minutes, and he was over the moon that I was going to be there sooner than later. Jessie had picked out where she was going to stay in Hawaii and couldn't wait to surf and lay on the warm sand.


A few weeks turned into a few more weeks. A few more weeks turned into 3 months. The time had come. We had saved our money, we did what we came there to do, and it was just time for another fork in the road. That last night in our campsite together, Jessie and I were having wine and discussing our individual plans. We both had concerns to express. We had just camped for 3 months and worked our asses off in a minimum wage job to make the few thousand dollars it was going to take for airplane fare to get out of here. When we get there and our money runs out we'll have to start all over again. What was going to happen if Jessie didn't like living in Hawaii or things with Peter didn't go the way I had imagined in my head?  I couldn't move to Germany and be away from my family forever. I would have to come home eventually. What would we do when we got back to the states just as broke as before? Was it time for our grand adventure to come to an end? Were we living a teenage fairy tale world that needed to end with us grounded in reality?
We decided in our wine happy haze that we needed a bigger force to help us make a decision that big. We decided that we had our faith in everything happening for a reason, and what was meant to be was meant to be. We had made friends here in this new little town after our 3 months of visiting. It was an absolutely beautiful place to live. Should we put our money into a deposit for an apartment here instead of irresponsibly blowing it on a decision we were so unsure about?
Here was the new plan. We would open up the Sunday paper in the morning and go through the "for rent" postings. If we saw one that was in our price range, had an ocean view and 2 bedrooms we would apply for it. But only one. And that's what we did.

We did find a little 2 bedroom apartment with an ocean view. We rode our bikes over to the address, looked in the windows, and fell in love. It was upstairs, with a giant balcony and a garage. The owner just randomly happened to be inside laying out the new tile. So we poked our heads in.

Hi! We're Krista and Jessie! We really love this apartment and want to be your new tennants! Sure, we'll fill out this application! Do we have full deposit and first months rent? No. But we can make you payments for it! Do we have references in this town? No. But we have a boss that we've worked for the last 3 months and he likes us! Do we have a current address? Yes! State Park site number 175!

This poor lady was just looking at us like we were insane. We explained our story and tried to spin it with as much positive love as we could but it just wasn't going to happen and for understandably good reasoning. We both new it was a stretch.


It was time to say our goodbyes. We started packing our cars, dividing up our things, and wrapping our heads around the end of an era. It was time.

But then Jessie's cell phone rang.

It was Susan, the owner of the apartment. She admitted she was crazy for doing this, but she had a strange feeling about us girls. She said that she couldn't stop thinking about our story and that she felt a force bigger than herself telling her to help us out. "So..." she said (and her pause seemed to go on for hours) "welcome to San Clemente."

I could tell she was smiling and she could tell we were smiling and we were all speechless for a few minutes with happy tears in our eyes. She knew she had just changed our lives. And we were grateful for it.

"You can pick up your key under the mat any time. I'll drop by tomorrow and see if you need any help with anything."

And just like that, we were officially Californians.

Chicken, Broccoli and Ritz Cracker Casserole

This has become my family's new favorite. We had it twice last week and it's even on the menu planner again for this week.
  1 – lb. fresh broccoli Break in pieces, and steam for 2 minutes.
3 cups cooked chicken breasts  – Break up in small pieces
3 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese divided
2 tubes Ritz Crackers
1  stick melted butter
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Ingredients for sauce:
1/3 C. Butter melted
1/4 C. Cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 C. COLD Water
1/3 C. Chicken Broth
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 Cups Milk
1 1/2 cups of the above Cheddar Cheese

In greased 13×9 pan, layer the broccoli and chicken, then set aside.

Chicken, broccoli and Ritz Cracker casserole recipe

 In saucepan over medium heat, combine the melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, seasonings, and milk. (mix them fast, because if you add everything one at a time slowly, the cornstarch starts to clump up) Stir well, and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. (seems like this step takes forever) Turn heat down to low, and add 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken and broccoli. Top with 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.

Chicken, broccoli and Ritz Cracker casserole recipe

Melt the butter and stir well. Crush Ritz crackers in large zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. Don’t crush too small. Add crumbs to the melted butter. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the grated cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until hot & bubbly.

Chicken, broccoli and Ritz Cracker casserole recipe

Cheesy chicken broccoli and ritz cracker casserole

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Yo Gabba Gabba Toodee Doll

With Kalynn being sick this last week, I had plenty of time to sit around. She hasn't really wanted to do anything besides get rocked in our chair and zone out on TV. Which is fine. Having a temperature of over 103 for 3 days would tucker anyone out, let alone a toddler that weighs all of 27 pounds. Her poor little body just needed to rest for a while. So we sat, and we rocked, and I sewed.
Last week I posted about the Yo Gabba Gabba Plex Doll, and this week I finished off our collection with Toodee.

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

I found a template for Toodee's face online and used that as the pattern for her eyes and whiskers. (Big ups to my Hubs for his outstanding cutting job on her eyes and nose) Since my marker wasn't showing up on the black felt, I used a piece of white chalk to outline the eyelashes. 

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

The template is only for half of Toodee's body, so I traced her ears and improvised the bottom on 2 pieces of Cadet Blue felt. 
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

I did the same thing for the light blue chin and belly.
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Her tail was a little bit tricky. I cut identical spikes from the light blue felt and sewed together only the tops so that the bottom could still be spread apart. 
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Then I sewed each side down on the darker felt starting right between her ears. 
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Her tail was improvised as I went along as well. 
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Along with her tail, the arms and legs were free handed. Because that's how I role. 
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Our family is complete!
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Toodee doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Ode To My Pup (and a doggy treat recipe)

I know that when people say their dog is like their child they must mean it, but I just don't think it's possible to love a dog more than I love mine. 
Here's a little background about me and Moles. I was in a dark place in my life a few years back. (More on that another day) She is to me a symbol of picking myself off the ground, dusting myself off, and soldering on. I had wanted a bulldog for a long time, but circumstances were never right for me to afford or mother a tiny little life. One magically colossal day, my mom and I went for cocktails at The Shops in Mission Viejo. When we were walking past the pet store, I saw her. It was like I floated across the ground and was placed by all the Gods in Heaven in front of her cage. "How much is that doggy in the window? The one with the waggly tail?" The dollar figure the store employee blurted out crushed my heart. I couldn't afford her.  And then he kept on talking saying that she was a sad little pup ( just like me!) She had just been born in last August (I'm a leo too!) she had been shipped from the Midwest  (Holy Moly me too!) and she needed some extra shots and love because she hadn't been treated very well and was a little sick.  I needed shots too (mine more vodka and not so much medical) and I needed love and I had been treated poorly! This is my doggy soul mate! I asked to let her out and when she was put into my arms we melted together. My amazing, wonderful, unbelievably giving mother said she couldn't see me without this friend in my life so we worked out a deal and just like that, Guacamole officially became mine. We were in love. Still are. This is a pup that doesn't have a mean bone in her precious little body. She is the most gentle, loving, and loyal friend anyone could ask for.  I just can't imagine what life would be like had I not found her that one fateful day. 

So anyway, Moles is a purebred bulldog. Bulldoggies are notorious for having horrible skin problems among other adorable qualities like her snoring, drooling, farting, shedding and laziness. Yesterday she woke up covered head to toe in hives which she gets fairly regularly from eating bees and flies. 

We gave her the regular dosage of Benedryl and then she passes out for about 12 hours. I just felt so sorry for her laying in the corner with her tongue falling out of her mouth, covered in red dots. I decided while Kalynn was napping to make her some doggy treats. 

Here's her favorite recipe: (thanks to

1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup margarine or butter
1 cup boiling beef broth
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg, beaten (or 2 eggs to make treats softer for older dogs)
3 cups whole wheat flour

Combine rolled oats, margarine/butter, and boiling beef broth in a large bowl. Let stand and soften for 10 minutes.  Thoroughly stir in cornmeal, sugar, bouillon, milk, peanut butter, and egg. Mix in flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough comes together.  Knead dough together.
Roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut out your desired shape with a cookie cutter. 

 Place on cookie sheet (they don't get any bigger so put as many as you can on one sheet) Bake 35 to 45 minutes at 325 degrees, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Yo Gabba Gabba Plex Doll

My own contentment relies now on what makes my daughter happy and well adjusted rather than my own personal whims. I don't mind going to bed at 9:30 PM instead of 4AM. I even cook and eat 3 square meals a day instead of Easy Mac and Ramen Noodles. Things have just changed. But I love it and am completely grateful for it. However getting me to turn on PBS Sprout or Disney Jr over FX or Comedy Central has been a great adjustment. I honestly can't stand children's TV. What happened to the good kids shows like Fraggle Rock, Inspector Gadget or Danger Mouse?

Yo Gabba Gabba is my baby girl's very favorite show. We've seen every episode a million times, we know all the dances, all the lessons and obviously all the songs as well. I'm choosing this clip because it's a behind-the-scenes point of view of all the nuts-o people that create the episodes and the even more nuts-o people that star in them.

I actually really genuinely like Yo Gabba Gabba. It teaches my daughter good manners (wash your hands, share, it's ok to be different and to accept different people, take turns, don't bite your friends...) It has guest stars that I would watch anyway and bands that I don't necessarily love, but would hands down choose over Play With Me Sesame. Its Daytime Emmy nominated co-developers are a couple of local Orange County guys who were in a punk-rock band called the Aquabats, became fathers, were super disappointed with kids horrible choices of television shows so decided to start their own.
I don't blame them, I mean Caillou? Really? Anyone that knows me, knows my dislike for that show in particular is greater than the sky is wide. The Wiggles are unbearable to me, especially the red one. I can't handle Barney. Super Why drives me up the wall, and Dora the Explorer's map song makes me want to pull my hair out and throw myself down the stairs. That being said, it was a nice change to be referred to Yo Gabba Gabba where I can sit and watch with my daughter and not want to secretly be stabbing myself with a fork. Its guest stars are actors and actresses that I enjoy watching anyway, live band performances by groups like The Roots, The Shins, Weezer and The Postmarks. They even have Biz Markie with his own beat box segment and drawing lessons with Mark Motherbaugh from the group Devo.

Ok, anyway...

My kid loves the show. And so now I do too. On with the story.

Once upon a time, long long ago (last year) there was a baby girl named Kalynn who got a Foofa doll all to herself from her favorite show. But she was all alone.

Foofa: Yo Gabba Gabba

And then for Christmas her wonderful Mima and Poppy sent Muno and Brobee from a land far far away (New York)

Muno, Foofa, and Brobee: Yo Gabba Gabba

But still, they were missing someone. 

So that's where I stepped in. 

I suppose I could have bought a Plex doll, they range anywhere from $12.99-$49.99 but... that's not how I roll. I went out, spent $3 in felt, and made my own.

The project is super straight forward. I made it in one night. 

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

The body, arms and legs were all done free hand. 
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Sew together on the sides, leave a whole open, stuff. Pretty easy. 

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

This is Plex's dancey-dance
Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

Step by step instructions on how to make your own felt Plex doll from Yo Gabba Gabba

We're still missing Toodee... hmmm... Stay tuned...