Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday Night Cookie

A little late. Our internet was on the fritz last night (Very Frustrating!) so my Saturday Night Cookie post is actually on Sunday afternoon.

Paula Deen's Three Chocolate Cookies
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
- 1 cup milk chocolate morsels
- 3 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup almond brickle chips (I use Heath toffee bits, I don't know if they're the same thing...)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets. With an electric mixer, beat butter and shortening at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels and almond brickle chips. Drop cookies by 1/4 cupfuls (I cut it down to about 1/8 cup drops to make the cookies more manageable) about 3-inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Mmmmm..... cookie dough.....

The finished cookie. They turn out a little more brown and glossy than regular chocolate chip cookies.

Hello love.

I got this recipe during a cookie exchange a few years ago and occasionally dream about it. These cookies aren't for the faint of heart. Three different kinds of chocolate, PLUS toffee bits? Yes, please! I made them a little smaller than the recipe called for, but that doesn't make them any less tasty. It just means you can eat more (right? Right??)

I've already had four today - two for breakfast and two for a pre-lunch snack. It's really a good thing that I make the hub take the leftovers into work, or I would quickly gain back all the weight I lost last year!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cookie Saturday

I've decided to try out a different cookie every Saturday (when possible anyway) as a way to use and get used to my beautiful KitchenAid mixer.

This week's cookie is from a Gooseberry Patch cookbook we received as a wedding present. I've often looked through it but never gotten around to actually baking anything from it. Until today, anyway.

Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 c shortening (I used margarine, even if it's not the best substitute)
1 2/3 c sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
5 T cocoa
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 c milk
1/2 c nuts, chopped
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; stir in cocoa. Sift together remaining dry ingredients and add to cocoa mixture alternately with milk. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfulls on cookie sheet (I always line mine with parchment paper). Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

These were exactly as described. Lovely chewy chocolate chocolate chip cookies. They were perfect right out of the oven (well, after they'd cooled a few minutes) with a nice big glass of milk. Definitely a keeper!

Man, our 1960s faux wood laminate hand-me-down table doesn't look too appealing in the photos. The lighting isn't the best in our dining room at 11pm at night, either. Maybe next week I'll get around to making the cookies during the day, before the kids are in bed, and the photos will turn out better. Practice, practice, practice, right?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Big, Fat Baby

The kidlet had her 15m Well Baby Visit last week.

She's Godzilla-esque.

height: 33"
weight: 30 lb 13 oz
Above the 95% for everything. That's what you get when you were 10lb 6.5oz and 22.25" when you were born, though.

Poor girl had 3 vaxes on top of yet another ear infection. That makes her fifth infection in about seven months. Hello ear tubes!

She is such a funny, funny girl.

She is opinionated and determined. If she doesn't want to do something she'll stomp her feet and shake her head "No no no!" She loves her big brother, the dog and her baby doll. She will fuss until I turn on some music and then she will commence with the booty shaking. The kidlet, kiddo and I had a dance party the other night while the hub was at basketball. Who knew my kids loved Beyonce and Lady Gaga?

She is getting the most adorable curls on the back of her head and I hope to God they stay forever (even if she will hate me brushing through them when she gets older).

She has about 10-15 "words" plus another 6-8 signs but will throw all-out, on-the-floor, leg-kicking tantrums if we can't figure out what she wants (I laugh, I can't help it!).

Man, I love that girl. I love her forever.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I heart Photoshop

A few weeks ago, I entered some photos in the iheartfaces logo challenge. None of my pictures were chosen (bummer) but I thought maybe it would be interesting to see the original of one of the photos and how I edited it in Photoshop.

This is the original photo, SOOC.

It's a fun one of the kiddo. I still need to work on my composition, and, in hindsight, I probably could have cropped it a bit tighter to his face. Plus, I know the hat is situated a little low and covers his eyes, but I still like it.

What I wanted to do was take out the Latham Seeds logo on the hat and put "I <3 faces" on there instead.

I started off by using the Magic Wand Tool to select the green of the logo. You can hold the shift key down and click to choose multiple areas. Alternatively I could have used the Polygonal Lasso Tool (and it probably would have been faster).

Once I had the logo selected, I refined the edge (Select-->Refine Edge) slightly to encompass the few pixels around my selection.

You can adjust the sliders and see in the preview how the selection will look. After I had that set to how I wanted, I adjusted the hue (Image-->Adjustments-->Hue/Saturation) of the green to try and get it back to closer yellow like the background.

NOTE: I have the Colorized button checked on the Adjustments box. It helps when you want an all-over color change like this.

You can see that the green is more yellow now. It's not the best blending job, but it's better than it is as green.

After I adjusted the hue, I went back and used the cloning tool to fix everything. I could have used it from the very beginning, but when I first tried it on the green logo, it came out looking extremely fake.

Cloning was a very time-consuming process. I wanted to make sure the knit looked as realistic as possible. It didn't have to be perfect because I would be putting the "i heart faces" logo on there, but I didn't want it to look like I'd Photoshopped the heck out of it (even though that was exactly what I'd done).

This is what it looked like when I finished. Obviously not perfect, but not too bad.

Now it's time to add the "i heart faces" logo.

I used the polygonal lasso tool to copy areas of the green into the "i" "<3" and "faces"

And, voila!

I did a little tweaking with the eraser and the Transform-->Warp tool to make it look like it was more natural and followed the curve of his head in the hat.

The picture itself is still a little blah, so I ran Pioneer Woman's Fresh and Colorful action, set the opacity of that layer to 79 percent. I also ran her Bring on the Eyes action. Because his eyes are kind of hidden, I kept that at 100% opacity.

The final result:

Now, that probably took me about 2 hours, at least, to Photoshop everything. And now that I've let it sit and gone back to it, I can see other things I could have done to make it better.

But it's always fun to play around in Photoshop and test my skillz.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Yesterday afternoon the hub texted me that he'd won a Wii from his work.

As a creative way to encourage employees to work over the Christmas break (but without paying them overtime, which isn't in the budget), employees who worked more than a certain number of hours were placed in a raffle for various prizes. The hub won a Wii!

How cool is that!?!

I think we're about the only people we know who don't yet have one. The hub has an xBox I bought him a few years ago that he plays a few times a week, but otherwise we're not really gaming people. If I have down time, I prefer to spend it reading, in the bath or on the computer.

But I'd heard a lot of good things abut the Wii, especially the WiiFit and EA Active Sports games and accessories you can buy for it. I'm always looking for different ways to change up my exercise routine, especially as I gained back 5lbs over the Christmas holiday (darn you cookies!).

He set it up last night and played a little of the Wii Sports game that comes with the console. He said it took a little getting used to, but it looked like fun.

Now, we just have to get some accessories to go with it!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

C is for Cookie

That's good enough for me.

Did anyone else have the old Sesame Street records? The ones with Rubber Ducky and I Love Trash and the whole theme song on it? Sometimes I'll occasionally bust out with a verse from I Love Trash in my head, for no apparent reason.


Have I mentioned how much I love my new mixer? It's so purty.

I've used it at least once a week since I got it, mostly to make cookies. I made monster cookies for our road trip to Arizona. I made good, old Nestle Tollhouse cookies last week (only used Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips because I didn't have any good, old Nestle semi-sweet in my cupboard).

This week I made white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies,

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
1 c butter, softened (can also use margarine if that's all you have)
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c flour (I actually used closer to 1 3/4 and would even consider going up to 2 cups. They're a little crispy yet)
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
3 c oatmeal
1 t vanilla
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 c dried cranberries

Cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs and mix well. Add remaining ingredients, dough will be stiff. Drop on to cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes.

Even though my oven runs a little hot, I found 11 minutes to be about perfect for these cookies. Nicely golden, yet still soft and chewy in the middle.

These were adapted from an oatmeal chocolate chip recipe I found in yet another small-town cookbook. They smelled divine while baking, the hub commented they were tasty and the cookie dough was awfully good. I haven't actually had a chance to eat one yet, but I'm sure that won't take long.

I think the people who are happiest about my current baking obsession are the hub's coworkers. I always force him to take what I make into work with him so I'm not tempted to eat everything!

Monday, January 11, 2010

iheartfaces - best face challenge

It's birthday week 2 at iheartfaces, and they're celebrating their actual birthday on January 12.

The challenge this week is "Best Face Photo." The caveat with this week's challenge was it had to be a photo that was taken in either December of January.

My entry this week is a photo of the kiddo I took in December. He was helping the hub put together our new bed, and for some reason decided he needed to wear his "Mr. Spiffy" glasses to do so.

I love this photo. It's just the kiddo to a T: goofy as all getout. Man, I love that kid.

Stop on by iheartfaces and check out all the other great photos for this week's challenge. And check out their awesome new look, too!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Having an existensial crisis

Okay, maybe it's not that deep, but I'm still having a dilemma.

After being forced to wear my glasses for the past 10 days due to pinkeye, I decided it was high time I bought a new pair. I'd been almost 5 years since I bought my previous pair and they were just getting old and dowdy-looking.

I had to go in to my optometrist for my annual eye exam this week anyway, so I decided I would browse the frames while I was there.

I don't wear my glasses often -- usually later at night right before bedtime and sometimes on the weekends if I don't feel like putting my contacts in. But when I do wear them, I want them to be cute.

After spending hours (and I mean hours, I accidentally took a two-hour lunch on Wednesday because I wasn't paying attention to the time while trying on frames) looking at and trying on glasses, I came away with three possibilities:

They all have similar traits: They're all squareish frames with wider earpieces (is that what they're called?) The first two are a little more fun and funky while the last is more classic. I really like the first pair, but everyone agrees the beige blends in to my skin tone too much and it looks like I have floating glasses. The second pair might be a little too funky for me, but if I'm not wearing them all the time, does that really matter? And they had to order the third pair in so I could try them on and decide if I like them.

Does anyone else agonize this much about a decision for something they'll only wear about 14% of the time?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, iheartfaces!

This week iheartfaces is celebrating their birthday! Which is fun, because it's my birthday this week, too. Only I'm not 1. I'm 30+1. But it's still the same, right?

And this week is a fun photo challenge: add the iheartfaces logo somehow to your photo entries. This could be done any way - through photoshop, through photo composition, through whatever! It just has to be realisticish. (Yes, I know that's not a word.)

This was a fun challenge! I use Photoshop every day for my job, but it's not often I get to do really fun things like this with it. The most difficult thing was trying to create the image I had in my head. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

Legal release mumbo jumbo:
“I am submitting this photo into the I Heart Faces logo photo contest. By entering, I am granting I Heart Faces LLC permission to consider my photo for use in the marketing and promotion of their website.”

Stop on over to iheartfaces and see all the other creative ways people have put "iheartfaces" on their photos. There are some really cool ones!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A whirlwind, Griswold-style trip

When the football team from my Alma Mater found out which bowl they would be attending, I told the hub we were going, no matter what. Nevermind the fact that we would have to find someone to watch the kids for three days and really didn't *need* to take a 1,500-mile drive.

But we did anyway, and it was a great, albeit very tiring, trip. The hub's best friend joined us on the drive. I love that guy like a brother, and it was definitely nice to have another driver, especially as I contracted pinkeye on the last day of our Christmas vacation and was relegated to wearing my glasses.

We left Iowa on December 30 and returned on January 2. We drove almost 3,000 miles, round-trip, and made our way through eight states (and two snow storms). It was grueling, but we had a very fun time at the football game, celebrating NYE in Phoenix and seeing the sights. We even made a quick detour over to the Grand Canyon. It was gorgeous.

We had great seats for the football game, even though the sun was in our eyes for the first quarter.

Best of all, we won! Barely, but we did.

We even had a complete stranger take our photo, because we very rarely have our photo taken together.

Everyone should get to the Grand Canyon at some point.

It's absolutely breathtaking.

We went in on the very southeast corner, and there was a neat old stone watchtower there.

Hey, look! Another photo of us! I think we've already met our quota for 2010.

Now we're back home, which is a complete pit from all the Christmas stuff that's still strewn about. It's back to real life tomorrow. At least that includes cake at my work for my birthday!