Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Santa's Very Best Helper

Thanks to Eric's quick and wonderful woodworking skills, my entire family was able to surprise mom this Christmas with a beautiful entertainment center and a new flat screen TV.

He's been oh-so-busy the last three weeks building this 3-piece, custom cabinet and side shelves. They're made out of oak with a reddish/chestnut finish. And they match perfectly with the living room tables and buffet cabinet he built for my parents 15+ years ago. 

To say that mom was surprised would be an understatement. She was absolutely thrilled. And now she can watch Days of our Lives, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Shocker basketball in 46-inch HD! 

Thanks, Eric. You really are Santa's (and Sandra's) very best helper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Giant Christmas Sugar Cookies

Shhhhh.... don't tell anyone, but I kinda cheated on my Christmas sugar cookies this year. Instead of making 100's of individual rolled & cutout shapes, I baked large sheets of cookies, put them on big, 18"x25" trays and covered them with copious amounts of buttercream icing. (Sorta like a sheet cake, I guess.) On the top, I piped MERRY CHRISTMAS in more frosting and added a cardstock cutout of Santa making a snow angel in the corner. Then I dusted powdered sugar over the whole thing. I'm going to put a knife beside the trays, and let everyone cut off as much or as little as they want.

I must be getting old. Or lazy. Or both. For the last couple of years, I've been devising ways of simplifying my Christmas cookies. Don't get me wrong, I love being the designated sugar cookie baker for our families. But when you have to travel hundreds of miles in a small car and need to make enough to feed 50+ people... you gotta get creative to keep your sanity. 

I'm pleased with how these turned out. And I was especially happy to cut my baking and decorating time in half. I ended up making 4 giant trays of cookies. Tomorrow we'll pack them in our "sleigh" and travel west to share them with family.

Here's hoping your holidays are sweet!

Here's a few photos of the baked cookie sheets and the first layer of buttercream icing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Wonderland Dessert

Attention edible artists, kitchen crafters and fun food folks – have I got a project for you!

First, search your cabinets and cupboards for various cone shapes. Next, drizzle melted chocolate candy wafers over the cones to create an entire forest of fabulous, colorful trees. And finally, artfully arrange the trees to decorate a winter wonderland dessert.

I used a giant bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream covered in whipped cream to make my festive, edible centerpiece. But you could easily build the display on a white frosted cake or individual cupcakes. And look for unusual or unexpected containers too! This bowl is actually the top of a vintage kitchen scale that I found at World Market.

You can find my complete tutorial and easy, step-by-step photos at Handmade Charlotte. Check out some of my other edible art ideas too, while you're there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Celebration of Polar Bear Cookies

Did you know that a group of polar bears is called a "celebration?" (Seriously. I'm not makin' this up.)

I can't think of a better word to describe these cute, little polar bear cookies either. They just make me want to celebrate the season. They'd be a great treat to bring to any holiday gathering or cookie exchange.

And there's an even better reason to celebrate: they're NO-BAKE! No kidding.

For my easy recipe and instructions, check out Handmade Charlotte

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ping Pong Pet

Pets don't make very good ping pong partners. But that didn't stop Bea from trying to teach our cat, Cake, to play.

Bea and Eric were in the middle of a ping pong game on the kitchen table the other night when the cat hopped up and sat right down in the middle of the action. She didn't want to play, necessarily. She just likes to make her presence known, no matter what you're doing. (The same is true if you're reading the newspaper, eating a bowl of cereal, or trying to make the bed.) 

Ahhhhh.... cats.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Easy Calico Cat and Dalmatian Dog Cookies

After I made those calico cat sugar cookies for Bea's birthday in September, I started wondering what other spotted, dotted and creatively-colored animals you could bake using the same technique - Cows, leopards, cheetahs, Dalmatian dogs or maybe even zebras?

I made some more calico cats and experimented with Dalmatian dogs for my Handmade Charlotte tutorial this month, and they both turned out great. I especially love how no two cookies are the same. There's an element of surprise every time to flatten your dough.

To see my step-by-step instructions for Calico Cat and Dotty Dalmatian Sugar Cookies, head over to Handmade Charlotte. I'd love to see what fun and creative cookies you can create using this technique of colored, rolled dough. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Chocolate always gives me joy.

Chocolate often gives me inspiration.

And this year, chocolate also gives to those in need.

Last week, I received this wonderful box from Seattle Chocolates. Not only was it filled with bits, bites and bars of beautiful chocolate deliciousness, but it was also filled with a message of hope and charity. 

From now through the end of the year, for every item purchased at www.seattlechocolates.com and every post of #chocolategives, Seattle Chocolates will donate a serving of fresh food to someone in need. Donations will be made through a network of food banks including the Food Bank for New York City, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the SF-Martin Food Bank and Northwest Harvest.

I'm going to join them by donating food to my local food bank - the Kansas Food Bank.

Thanks for the inspiration (and dessert), Seattle Chocolates

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Basket-of-Kittens Costume

Surprise. Surprise. Our cat-loving daughter wanted to dress up as a basket-of-kittens for Halloween this year. Two years ago, she went as a calico cat. But this year, she was a black "momma" cat with a litter of assorted kittens in her wicker basket. (A.K.A. The Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit.)

Eric devised a way to cut a hole in the bottom without the entire basket falling apart, and then we used a piece of thick upholstery foam to fit snuggly around her waist so the basket wouldn't slide down. It worked great. She was able to walk, use her hands and move easily up and down stairs. 

She got lots of compliments and everyone seemed to like her trick-or-treat candy bag: a Meow Mix cat food bag.

I think if Bea had her way, she'd dress up as a cat every year.

Minecraft Steve Costume

Gus is 13 now - the age when kids still wanna to dress up for Halloween, but they kinda know they might be getting too old. 

Fortunately, he still wanted to dress up and help take Bea trick-or-treating this year. So, we let him pick an easy costume that we knew he'd be love and be perfect for: Minecraft Steve. (If you're not familiar with the online video game Minecraft, Steve is the main character.)

The pixelated box head was purchased at Target. The pixelated sword was a birthday gift last year. We bought the sweatpants and t-shirt at Walmart. And I made the pixelated treasure chest trick-or-treat box.

For the first time in years, his costume took very little effort to put together. (Which is probably why he loved it.) Gus was able to move and walk freely from house to house. One thing about the box mask though..... it was a little dark and made it hard to see at night. Maybe next year we'll skip masks and go for crazy wigs or funny face paint. (Assuming he wants to dress up next year. Like I always say - they're only this little for a short time. Gotta go crazy for Halloween while you can!)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oh my... October.

I don't know why, but October is always the busiest month of the year for the Dennelers. So many things to do, places to go, and people to see. Here's just a few photos of the month's activities that have kept us on the move.

Eric's Prairie Fire Half-Marathon - He finished in 1:36:05 (Gettin' faster in his old age, believe it or not!)

Applejack Pumpkin Patch - The kids' favorite, it never disappoints.

State Tennis - Watching our niece get 8th place at state. Hooray Abby!
2nd Grade Fall Music Concert - Bea was all smiles as she sang and played the rainstick at her school concert.

WSU Pumpkin Run - Eric finished in 19:57. He was 11th place overall and 1st in his age group!

Preparing for Halloween - making things sufficiently spooky around here.