I have been making this cake for Independence Day for many years. It is always a really big hit with my family because it is so light and refreshing. Last year my brother-in-law, who doesn't like sweets, had two pieces! It is a festive addition to any barbecue or picnic and it couldn't be easier to make. Prepare a white cake mix and bake according to directions in a 12 X 9 pan. Allow to cool completely. Spread some Cool Whip on top of the cake and then place halved strawberries and whole blueberries in a stars and stripes pattern. Enjoy!
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I wanted to make this festive rag wreath as soon as I saw it here. It is a very easy craft to make and can be done in an evening while watching TV.
This is a great project for using up any leftover scraps of fabric. I didn't have any leftover fabric so I bought 1/4 of a yard in six different red, white, and blue patterns. All together the fabric cost about $6.00 Then I cut the fabric into one inch strips. You could also rip the fabric into strips to give it a more rustic look. The original wreath used a wire hanger that had been formed into a circle but I couldn't find one single wire hanger in my house so I used a 12 inch wooden embroidery hoop instead. To make the wreath you simply tie the fabric strips in a single knot all around the base. Then you can attach a ribbon.
It was a really fun project to make and I am thrilled with how it turned out! I think these could be made for just about any holiday! Give one a try!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I am a huge fan of community theatre. It is cheap, quirky, and fun! But every once in a while you find a production that exceeds your expectations and you thoroughly enjoy the performance. Tonight Marilyn and I found such a production at the Murray Amphitheater. Arts in the Park presented The Scarlet Pimpernel and we both absolutely loved it! I read the book by Baroness Orczy when I was in ninth grade and I was completely infatuated with the dashing Sir Percival Blakeney (the Scarlet Pimpernel) as he saved condemned prisoners from the guillotine during the French Revolution. I think the musical is just as captivating as the book because it is full of humor, romance, adventure, and amazing songs. The actors in tonight's production all had outstanding voices. I especially enjoyed the actor who played Sir Percival. He was brilliant as a foppish nincompoop trying to divert attention away from his dangerous missions to France. The song "Creation of Man" had both of us laughing hysterically. The costumes in that scene were completely over the top. In fact, I was very impressed with all of the costumes in the show! The sets were also quite elaborate, especially the prison and the guillotine. I was looking forward to a picnic in the park and a nice evening sitting under the stars but I saw an incredible show that I highly recommend! The show runs for the rest of the week and tickets are only $8.00.
I found the idea for these cute and easy 4th of July cupcakes here. Simply bake and frost some cupcakes and then decorate using blue mini M&Ms for the stars and pull-apart licorice for the stripes.
Try these cupcakes for your 4th of July barbecue or picnic!
Monday, June 27, 2011
This week I thought I'd share some fun ideas for Independence Day. I absolutely love these fun flag treats that I found here. Simply make some rice krispies treats with 3 tblsp. of butter, 4 cups of miniature marshmallows, and 6 cups of rice krispies cereal. Melt the butter over low heat and then add the marshmallows stirring until completely melted. Remove from heat and add the rice krispies. Stir until well coated. Use a spatula to evenly press mixture into 13 X 9 pan coated with cooking spray. Allow to cool and then cut into 8 rectangles.
Then decorate in a stars and stripes pattern using red, white, and blue tubes of decorator icing. Place white candy stars on the blue icing.
Package them up and enjoy at your barbecue or picnic!
Saturday, June 25, 2011
I spent the afternoon at the Utah Arts Festival downtown. It is always so much fun to wander amid all of the booths selling various pieces of art. You can find everything from oil paintings, to jewelry, to sculptures made out of rusted tools. I had sensory overload trying to take it all in! There are also dozens and dozens of food booths. Lots and lots of choices for a treat but in the end I opted for some chocolate gelato. I love me some gelato! The festival has many different stages set up around Library Square and there is always some performance happening. I was able to see CDT perform Alice Through the Looking-Glass on the Festival Stage. It was so wonderful to see Tashena perform once again! She is amazing. After wandering around a bit I returned to the Festival Stage in the evening to see Ballet West perform! We actually got to see world class dancers perform for the price of admission to the festival (and Tashena danced on the same stage). They performed some wonderful pieces including a mesmerizing selection from Swan Lake. I had a splendid time! The festival concludes tomorrow evening.
Note: I had a brush with greatness while watching Ballet West perform. When I made it back to the Festival Stage there weren't many seats available so I snuck into an aisle seat near the back. When I looked up I noticed that Christopher Ruud was sitting next to me! He is the principal dancer for Ballet West and one of my very favorites! So exciting! The only drawback was that Christiana Bennett (his wife) had another partner on stage and I prefer it when they dance together.
The June selection for my book club was Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. It is a book that I will not soon forget. In July of 1942 French police begin rounding up Jews in Paris for deportation. Ten year old Sarah doesn't understand what is happening when the police come to her house so she locks her little brother in a cabinet thinking that she will be back soon. However, she and her parents are taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver, a sports arena, and are forced to remain there in appalling conditions for days until they are transported to concentration camps. This event in history is known as the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. In May of 2002 Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in Paris, is assigned to write a story about the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in anticipation of the 60th Anniversary. She knows nothing about this event and asks her French husband and his family what they know but they prefer not to think about the Occupation of France and the role the Vichy government played in the deportation of Jews. Julia learns that most people would rather forget this dark time in French history but she cannot stop thinking about it. In her research she finds Sarah's story and learns of a connection between Sarah and her husband's family. Julia feels compelled to find out what happened to Sarah even if it destroys her marriage because she doesn't think her story should be forgotten. It seems as if the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup has been forgotten because I had never heard of it in all my studies of World War II. I was so affected by this amazing story that I, just like Julia, had to do some additional reading to find out more. It is a difficult book to read at times but De Rosnay's writing is beautiful. The narrative alternates between 1942 and 2002 and this literary device is incredibly effective because it seems like Julia (and therefore the reader) is uncovering events as they are happening to Sarah. This book will make you cry...and remember.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Is there anything better than sitting outside under the stars on a summer evening? Tonight I packed up a blanket and a few treats and went to a park in my neighborhood to watch the movie Letters to Juliet. It was wonderful. My sister Marilyn and my cousin Emily came along and we had a lot of fun while we waited for the movie to start (the three of us can definitely talk). The movie itself was a sweet and predictable love story but I absolutely loved all the beautiful scenes filmed in Tuscany. It almost didn't matter what the movie was because everybody was having such a good time and the audience even cheered out loud when the boy got the girl in the end. I love summer!
My cousin Emily
Thursday, June 23, 2011
When the musical RENT hit Broadway in the early 1990s there were many people who were so affected by the story and music that they returned to see it again and again. There are even people who are so enamored with the show that they travel the country to see it wherever it is playing. These superfans are known as RENT-heads! I enjoyed PTC's production so much last week that I just had to see it again tonight! I have never seen a show twice during the same run before so I think there must be something magical about RENT! If such a thing is even possible I think I enjoyed it even more the second time around. The actors had really settled into their characters and there were subtle differences which added verisimilitude to their performances. Nik Walker's performance as Tom Collins made me laugh, made me cry, and gave me goose bumps, especially in the song "Goodbye Love." Once again I was fascinated by Fabio Monteiro's interpretation of Roger. I usually don't like the character of Roger but Monteiro really communicated Roger's vulnerability. I think "One Song Glory" is my new favorite song from the show and I much prefer Monteiro's version to the one on the original Broadway cast recording. Tonight I was also really impressed with Halle Morse, who played Mimi. I think she has really grown into the role, especially in the songs "I Should Tell You" and "Without You" with Roger. I loved absolutely everything about this production! Thank you, PTC, for turning me into a RENT-head!
Note: I particularly enjoyed tonight's performance because I was able to go with my friend Mel. I haven't seen her in a long time and it was so much fun talking with her! I think she liked it just as much as I did!
One of my major goals this summer was to make jam! I decided to make strawberry freezer jam because it looked pretty easy. I just used the recipe right off the pectin box!
Remove the stems from about 4 pints of strawberries. Crush the berries using a potato masher one pint at a time. Measure exactly 3 1/4 cups of berries into a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice to the berries. Gradually stir one box of pectin into the berries and mix thoroughly. Set aside 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes to dissolve pectin completely. Add one cup of light corn syrup and mix well. Gradually add 4 1/2 cups sugar, stirring constantly until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into containers with tight fitting lids leaving a 1/2 inch space at the top for expansion during freezing. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours to set. Freeze. You can store in the freezer for up to a year. Thaw in the refrigerator.
I am actually giddy with excitement because I have never done anything like this before! I love a good PB&J and it will be awesome to eat one with my own jam! Give this recipe a try!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
As some of you may know I went on a study abroad trip to France when I was in college. After spending the better part of four years studying art, history, and literature I was particularly susceptible to the charms of Paris and fell head over heels in love with the City of Light! One of the required books for the semester was A Moveable Feast and I became infatuated with Ernest Hemingway and all of the characters in his memoir of Paris in the 1920s. These characters seemed more real to me than my fellow classmates and I had imaginary conversations with them as I walked along the Seine, prowled the Louvre museum, or sat at a sidewalk cafe. I would have given anything to be a part of the Lost Generation. The protagonist in the movie Midnight in Paris feels exactly the same way. Gil (Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter visiting Paris with his fiance and her parents. He is swept up in the romance of the city while all they want to do is shop. He decides to take a walk at midnight and is magically transported to the 1920s where he meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Salvador Dali (hilariously portrayed by Adrien Brody). They give him the confidence to stay in Paris and write the novel he has always thought he could write. I loved this movie! It perfectly expresses how I feel about Paris!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
My niece Tashena dances with Children's Dance Theatre, a prestigious performing group with Virginia Tanner Dance at the University of Utah. I absolutely love watching her dance because, to me, she looks like an angel.
Tonight CDT performed Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Sandy Amphitheater. Tashena was in the dance called "Floating Away" which was so beautiful.
My whole family was there watching her from the front row. We were all so obviously proud of her that the lady sitting behind us told us how beautiful she was. She said that most of the girls were cute dancers but Tashena was good. Yeah, we know!
Tashena specifically told me to sit in the front row because she would be in the front for the finale!
She is smiling because she knew I would be taking a picture! I am just so incredibly proud of her! She had a rough start to life but she has become such a beautiful and talented girl!
I made these watermelon pops last year and they were such a hit with my nephew Sean (he loved the watermelon seeds made out of chocolate chips) that I decided to make them again this year!
I made these using a popsicle mold (which I bought at Walmart for just a few dollars) but you could also use a paper cup. Fill the mold about 3/4 the way full with some cherry Kool-Aid and place in the freezer. After about an hour add some mini chocolate chips to each mold. I used a toothpick to try and evenly distribute the chocolate chips. Return to the freezer for another hour. In a medium bowl beat a half a package of cream cheese with 2 cups of Cool Whip. Spread over the red layer in the molds. This mixture is really thick so I had to use a spoon to spread it evenly. Insert a popsicle stick into each mold and return to the freezer for several hours. Fill the remaining area of the mold with lemon-lime Kool-Aid and return to the freezer for several hours. Make sure each layer is completely frozen before you add the next layer. To remove the popsicle without separating the layers run the mold under some hot water for a few minutes.
These are so much fun for the kids! I can't wait until Sean comes over!
Monday, June 20, 2011
One of the best things about summer is being able to barbecue. I think everything just tastes so much better outdoors. My parents like to barbecue almost every night in the summer. On the menu tonight: grilled hamburgers, hotdogs, and brats, corn-on-the-cob, and watermelon. Delicious! My parents have an awesome fire pit in their backyard and it is so relaxing to sit by a crackling fire as the sun goes down. It is even better if you make some treats!
Tonight we had banana boats which are really simple to make. Peel one section of a banana and create a "channel" with a knife. Remove that section of the banana and discard (or eat).
Then fill in the channel with a layer of chocolate chips and then a layer of miniature marshmallows.
Replace the banana peel and then wrap the whole thing with tin foil.
Place the tin foil wrapped bananas on some of the hot coals in your campfire for about five minutes.
Remove them from the fire and unwrap the tin foil as soon as they have cooled down enough to handle. Remove the peel and eat with a spoon. They are so good!
Of course what campfire would be complete without making s'mores?
A roasted marshmallow, a Hershey bar, and two graham crackers equals deliciousness! Alas, no one would sing campfire songs with me! Kumbayah...
Note: I was a Girl Scout when I was young, I worked at a summer camp when I was in college, and I was even a Girl Scout leader for several years! I am a veteran of many campfires!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Since ties are a customary gift for Father's Day I thought I would make some tie cupcakes to celebrate the occasion. I made the ties out of fondant (it was my first attempt at making fondant) and I think they turned out pretty cute.
Here is the recipe for the rolled buttercream fondant that I used:
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 lbs. powdered sugar (1 bag)
In a large bowl mix together the corn syrup and the shortening. Add the salt and the vanilla then gradually add the powdered sugar until a stiff dough forms. Eventually you will need to knead the dough until it becomes smooth. I divided the dough into five parts and tinted four of them using red, green, yellow, and blue paste food coloring. I left one part white. Roll out the dough on a clean surface that has been dusted with powdered sugar until it is about 1/8 inch thick. I created a tie shaped template out of cardstock, placed it on the colored dough, and cut around it with a sharp knife. For the polka dots I used a straw to cut circles out of the plain dough.
I thought the dough was pretty easy to work with but this recipe makes quite a bit of fondant. Next time I will make half the recipe.
I made some white cupcakes with buttercream frosting and placed the ties on top. I bet your Dad would prefer to receive one of these treats rather than an actual tie! Happy Father's Day!
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Today I went to the much anticipated movie Green Lantern because I wanted to see an incredible sound-and-light show with out-of-this-world special effects. That is exactly what I got and it certainly was spectacular! Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a cocky test pilot who is chosen by the ring of a dying Green Lantern to be his successor. Green Lanterns harness will power to protect the galaxy but one of the Guardians has harnessed fear to become an immensely powerful being known as Parallax. Despite the fact that he is human (considered to be the weakest species in the galaxy), Jordan ultimately destroys Parallax by overcoming his own fear. Did I mention that the special effects are awesome? I am not overly familiar with the mythology of the Green Lanterns, but it seems to me like the filmmakers left out a lot of information leaving the story very disjointed. It was almost as if they wanted to hurry through the origin story to get to the next movie. Ryan Reynolds tries hard to be a hunky hothead (he is pretty cute and he is pretty funny) with unresolved issues from his childhood but, again, there was no real character development nor was there much explanation about Jordan's relationship with Carol Ferris (his love interest played by Blake Lively) or Hector Hammond (his rival played by Peter Sarsgaard). I was dazzled by the special effects but that is really all this movie has to offer.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Tonight I went to see Mamma Mia at Capitol Theatre. This show is almost more fun than you should be allowed to have in a theatre! Sophie Sheridan is getting married and she wants her Dad to give her away. The only problem is she doesn't know who he is! She decides to invite her mother's three ex-boyfriends to the wedding without telling her. When all three of them show up, the fun really begins with the awesome music of ABBA, fabulous choreography, and lots of spandex jumpsuits! The actress who played Donna had an incredible voice and I loved her renditions of "Money, Money, Money" and "The Winner Takes It All." I also loved the actresses playing Rosie and Tanya (the Dynamos). They were hilarious, especially when they sang "Dancing Queen" with Donna. This show always has everyone singing and dancing in the aisles and tonight was no exception! I loved every minute of it!
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Here is another fun cookie that would be perfect for a barbecue or picnic.
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
red, green, blue, and yellow paste food coloring
In a large bowl cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla then beat until smooth. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and stir until a dough forms. Divide the dough into fourths and tint each with a different color. It is important to use the paste food coloring to get the vibrant colors. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for two hours. When dough is ready preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Shape the dough into 3/4 inch balls. For each cookie take one ball of each color and shape into a large ball. Roll this ball with the palm of your hands into a 12 inch long "snake" shape. Start at one end of the "snake" and coil together to make a 2 3/4 inch round cookie. Place cookies three inches apart (leave room for the sticks) on a greased baking sheet. Carefully insert large sucker sticks into the bottom of the cookies. Bake cookies for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
These were an absolute hit with my nephew Sean!
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
I have been anticipating this night ever since PTC announced the 2010-2011 season this time last year! I first saw RENT when the Broadway touring company came to Salt Lake in 1998 and I have been a fan ever since. I bought the soundtrack and listened to it over and over again especially "Seasons of Love." This rock opera is an updated version of Puccini's La Boheme which is one of my favorite operas. Mark and Roger are not starving artists living in a garret in Paris but a filmmaker and musician living in an abandoned building in New York. Mimi is not dying of consumption but of AIDS. Whatever the context, the message is the same: cherish the ones you love and live every day as if it was your last! It is incredibly powerful and the music is spectacular. I thought PTC did an amazing job with the staging and choreography and the actors were brilliant. The actor who played Tom Collins (Nik Walker) had an incredible voice, but I was riveted by the actor playing Roger (Fabio Monteiro). I literally could not take my eyes off him when he was on stage. His voice was beautiful, especially in "One Song Glory" and "Your Eyes," and his interpretation of the character was edgy rather than angry. I loved this production and would recommend that you get a ticket (the run ends June 25). Get a ticket today.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Since I have the summer off, I like to plan lots of adventures for myself! I also like making to-do lists because I love the satisfaction of checking things off! When I saw a summer to-do list here I was completely inspired!
I repurposed a frame that I found at a thrift store. I removed the original image and used it as a template. I cut some plain colored cardstock into strips the length of the template (which was 5 inches). I didn't worry about measuring the width of the strips because I wanted them to look a little bit random. I glued the strips right onto the template in a rainbow pattern. I made a little tag for the top using some of my rubber stamp letters and glued a couple of mats out of the left-over cardstock around the tag. Then I glued it on top of the strips. I placed the whole thing back in the frame and used an overhead marker to write out my list of adventures right on the glass.
I am really excited about crossing some of these adventures off my list (and hopefully blogging about them).