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December 4, 2011

coffee cake...

Waking up this morning, I was in the mood for some sort of pastry-cake with my morning coffee. Actually, I had invited my mother and step-dad to come over for coffee and breakfast. I flashed back to my childhood, remembering how I was so afraid to try coffee cake, because I always thought it had actual coffee in it. As an adult...I wonder if I can make that happen! I found this recipe online at Joy Of Baking. I've found a few pretty good recipes there. I slightly changed a bit of the ingredients, so here it is...

Coffee Cake
Ingredients (Topping):
1 cup walnuts (although, I used candied walnuts and candied pecans)
1/3 cup light brown sugar (packed...a little extra is good, too)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 TB. AP Flour

Ingredients (Coffee Cake):
2 cups cake flour (sifted)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 TB butter, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
2/3 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)

To make the coffee cake topping, I chopped up the candied walnuts and candied pecans to about pea-sized pieces. It's okay if there are some that are a little larger. The nuts don't have to be candied, I just like that extra crunch. Throw chopped nuts in a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well so the flour and cinnamon coat everything.

Next, prep your pan. Turn the oven to 350 degrees (F), then spray a 9 inch cake pan with nonstick spray. I cut out a circle piece of parchment paper to line the bottom to help remove the coffee cake after baking.

In the mixer, put the butter and start to cream it, slowly add the sugar until it is combined and smooth. Add one egg at a time. You might have to scrape down the sides with a spatula. Next, add the vanilla and almond extracts.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add a little of the dry ingredients into the mixer (to avoid it flying out the sides). Once incorporated, add the sour cream until it's incorporated.

Spoon half the mixture into the cake pan, then sprinkle some of the topping onto the mixture. Add the rest of the mixture on top, spread to the edges of the pan, then add the rest of the topping crumble on top, making sure to cover completely.

Stick in the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Let it sit about 5 minutes once you remove it from the over. Then, carefully remove it from the pan (or serve directly from the pan). Just remember to serve it warm, and enjoy!!!

November 30, 2011

rice, rice, everywhere...

This year, I've reinstated my monthly Friday, er, I mean Tuesday Happenings. Since I don't teach on Fridays anymore (haven't in 6 years), I had to change them to a day I do work, hence the Tuesday. Each month, I assign a material. For example, last month it was aluminum foil, and this month it's rice. The kids get to be as creative as they can, and come up with a project using that material. They can use other materials as well, but the highlighted material must be the most obvious. Along with the project, they have to write a 2 minute story that they present to the class about their project.

Now, in the past, I've had some pretty awesome projects, but this year, I am floored by the creativity, and the support these kids get at home. I look forward to their projects and the nervous excitement they get when it's their turn to present!

November 27, 2011

lights, lights...i see the lights....

oooooooooooo, I can't keep my excitement in. This weekend, we pulled out the bins and decorated for Christmas. The outside, at least. The tree is up inside, but not fully decorated yet. I still have yet to pull out my Dept 56 Christmas Village, and some other odds and ends, but I'm sooo excited about the lights! I still can't explain what it is about Christmas lights that make me so giddy...

pumpkin spiced cheesecake loaf...

The day before Thanksgiving was my mom's first night in her new home. I am so thrilled that she now lived minutes from me (and I literally mean minutes...like 2). Knowing she had lots of unpacking to do, I thought I'd make her a pumpkin cheesecake loaf and deliver it with some freshly brewed coffee.

So I really got the idea of the pumpkin cheesecake loaf from my favorite coffee shop, Peet's Coffee & Tea. It seems like that is my go to pastry...except I started thinking about the fact that I pay $2.25 for a 1 inch slice of that delicious yumminess. That, along with my $4 medium nonfat vanilla latte with light foam is getting a little pricey every time I go in. So, the wheels started turning, and I figured out how easy it is to make this delight.

Of course, I wanted to share it with you, too!!!

Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecake Loaf

Ingredients (loaf):
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Ingredients (Cheesecake filling):

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Place eggs, sugar, honey, and oil in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium for 5 minutes.
  • Add pumpkin puree.
  • Slowly add dry ingredients until combined.
  • Pour the mixture into a well greased loaf pan (I like to use Pam with Butter and Flour for Baking).
  • Clean mixing bowl to make the cream cheese filling.
  • Add the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  • Add egg until combined. This may take a few minutes.
  • Pour the cream cheese filling into the loaf pan on top of the pumpkin batter. With a spoon, gently move the cream cheese filling around the pumpkin batter. Do not mix too much.
  • Place in oven and bake for about about 40 minutes. Check with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it's done. You may need to bake longer if there is batter still on the toothpick.

Once done, let it cool before serving. Enjoy with coffee, tea, or in my case a nonfat vanilla latte with light foam!

nutella sticky buns with vanilla bourbon glaze...

With the holidays in full swing, the baking bug is hitting me hard. I found this awesome site (foodgawker.com), and similar to Pinterest, it is so motivating. There are so many yummy, creative food ideas, and I love that most have recipe links. I came across a sticky bun recipe, but it was more of a citrus-y one. It sounded so yummy, I started working on the recipe, but realized I was missing half the ingredients, so I changed it up a bit and came up with this!

Unbaked sections in the pan.

Baked, but not glazed buns.

So, here's the recipe:

Nutella Sticky Buns with Vanilla Bourbon Glaze

Bun dough:
  • 1-3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 4-3/4 cups AP flour
  • 3 tsps salt
  • 1/2 cup EV olive oil


  • 1 cup Nutella (you can use more if you want)
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  • 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
  • 2 TB milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla bourbon extract (plain vanilla extract is fine)

  • In a mixer with a dough hook attachment, add warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes until yeast in foamy.
  • On low setting, add salt, and 1 cup of flour at a time until incorporated.
  • Add olive oil, slowly drizzling over dough while mixing.
  • Turn mixer to medium and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is nice and glossy.
  • Put dough in a large bowl that has been oiled, cover with plastic wrap, a warm towel, and let it sit for an hour to an hour and a half. (Dough will double in size).
  • Once dough has doubled, flour a board really well, and dump dough onto the board.
  • Using a rolling pin, roll out into a rectangular shape.
  • Spread Nutella over the dough, then sprinkle sugar over all the dough.
  • Roll tightly, the shorter way, so you have a longer roll.
  • Cut 2 inch sections
  • Using a large deep pan (like a 9x12 Pyrex dish, or a 9 inch round cake pan), grease the bottom of the pan and sides (I used Pam spray, but you can use anything really).
  • Place sections, cross section up, in the pans next to each other.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit about 45 minutes to let it rise again.

Baking & Glazing

  • Heat oven to 35o degrees.
  • Remove plastic cover and place in oven 35-40 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
  • Once the dough is fully cooked, start making the glaze.
  • In a small bowl, add confectioner's sugar, milk, and vanilla bourbon extract. Stir until smooth.
  • Drizzle over dough, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Serve warm with coffee or espresso. Enjoy!

November 15, 2011


I'm going to start right off the bat by saying how I totally can't take credit for this super adorable craft. Nope, I found it on a blog called Anything But Perfect. This lady designed the tag for someone who wanted a reward for their AR readers. Seeing as *I* have AR readers, I had to use this idea. This lady is even awesome enough to have free downloadables, so I didn't need to waste my evening re-creating it!

If you'd like your own, here's the link:

She's got a bunch of other super cute downloadables, and even creates a monthly calendar (AMEN). It's making my life soooo much easier!


The latest craze in social media seems to be the announcement of all the things people are thankful for. I guess it is that time of year. I had my 4th graders do this *I am thankful for* project. I thought it turned out pretty cute. Most of the responses are pretty basic, but I still love my that students took the time to decorate their feathers. (Okay, so I assigned it for homework and they HAD to bring them back). :)

Anyway, here's a brief list of things that I am thankful for (yup, I'm jumping on the bandwagon):
-my family (duh, right?)
-my so-called health
-my keurig
-that i have a place of my own to come home to every day
-that i can still enjoy a few minutes of peace
-that i can laugh at myself
-for my tastebuds
-for my ability to replicate cool projects
-for my daughter's beautiful voice
-for my son's ability to figure out math problems in a way i could never dream of

November 1, 2011

magic pumpkin seeds...

magic pumpkin seeds have become a tradition in our family. these tiny *seeds* in a mesh pouch magically appear one day by the pumpkin fairy, and when the kids put them out, they turn into mini pumpkins in just a few hours. it's such a treat for them, and a treat for me to watch.

hallows decor...

There is just something about lights that make me giddy. Add the holidays to that mix, and that could seriously put me over the edge. This is absolutely my favorite time of year...between Halloween and Christmas. I'm telling ya...those darn twinkly lights get me all the time.

October 20, 2011

sticky situation...

I'm having this dilemma right now. I despise, loathe, detest spiders and anything that resembles those creepy eight-legged blood suckers....except their webs. Maybe they take me back to Charlotte's Web, I don't know. I just know that whenever I see one, I want to just stare at it (and quietly pray it's creator is hidden from view). Especially with morning dew droplets clinging to its fibers.

This particular architect has set up shop outside my kitchen door. I've been watching it assemble its death-trap nightly, and then watch it get obliterated by giant moths and other bugs that careen into it. I've noticed that each night, the web gets bigger. I wonder if its maker is, too, getting bigger?.?.?... I don't have the heart, or will, to knock it down myself. But, apparently he must have sent out an email to his friends, because I noticed 2 additional webs tonight. I'm just not sure at what point I make the decision to evict.

golden egg...i mean pumpkin...

I came across this can of antique golf spray paint with the overabundance of craft materials in my garage, and then saw one of the kids' pumpkins. I figured I'd go for it. Thinking it turned out pretty cool, it sat on my lawn until it dried, where all the neighbors could see it. I sprayed the other pumpkin with a gold glitter to give it some sparkle! I was pretty proud of myself for doing something different...until the kids saw *their* pumpkins. Naturally, they freaked out a little until I reassured them we'd be getting more pumpkins. I was able to get back to that proud moment!

September 24, 2011


Where do I even begin? Wow... I was watching Barefoot Contessa the other day and Ina was making her signature chocolate chip cookies. My next day neighbor, being the sweetheart that he is, squeezed my daughter into his salon for a hair appointment, and while we were there, he mentioned something about liking dark chocolate. So, I've been wanted to try Ina's chocolate chip cookie recipe, so I added my own twist. I went to Trader Joe's, picked up a bar of 72% dark chocolate (the Pound Plus...17.6 ounces), chopped it up and threw that into the cookie dough.

Since I doubled the recipe, and I knew that my kids aren't huge fans of dark chocolate, so I split the dough before adding the chunks of chocolate, and made it two ways. The first being the dark, and a batch of semi-sweet. Wow, can you say yummy goodness? It put such a smile on my face, but I think I got an even bigger smile when I saw the excitement from my kids and my neighbors. There's just something truly blissful about making others happy around you.

September 18, 2011

One of the cool things about our yard is all the creatures we attract. Based on my previous post, clearly mice and rats are included. We have these hummingbirds that duke it out every year laying claim on our backyard...whether it be the salvia bushes or the feeder we have up. It's pretty entertaining watching them chase one another and cuss each other out in the process. They all have their own branches they perch upon while waiting to ambush any trespassers.

It's also pretty amazing seeing how brave they are. Even if I approach the feeder, I hear them throwing slurs at me from the trees. When I sit outside on my patio table, which is literally next to a salvia bush and their feeder, they approach it as if I'm just another fixture in the yard. Apparently, I have become one of their own...a sort of Dancing with the Wolves, if you will...only it's me Hanging with the Hummingbirds.

September 16, 2011


So, this is not one of the finer photographs in life, but it did bring me some joy. You see, it all started 9 years ago when we moved here. We had a hot tub and a whole lot of ivy growing all over the place. Shortly after, we noticed mice and rats. I guess this is what you get when you move into an older home near an agricultural field.

We didn't actually discover them until we went to remove the hot tub and found tunnels and skeletons in the foam insulation. Gross, right? Well, we then started hearing them under the house and in the garage. We tried a variety of methods leaving rotten smells streaming through our house.

It has been some time since we've had them inside the garage...that is until I noticed one day that there were a few cardboard boxes that were shredded to smitherings. We called our pest control and some weeks later, we got 'em! We got 3 actually. A joyous day it is! I chose to take this photo, as the other two were caught in snap traps. Maybe we should leave them for a couple more days as a warning to the others... Or not...

August 19, 2011

heaven in a jar...

I had almost forgotten what true bliss was like until I went to Costco and purchased my most favorite consumable out of a jar. It's been a while since I've enjoyed this heavenly goodness. I have 2 favorite was to eat it...1) slathered on crispy toast, and 2) on a spoon straight out of the jar. Yummmmmmmm.

July 12, 2011


What is it with bubbles that makes us so happy? Actually, I should take a step back for a moment and discuss the idea of bubbles. Yes, they're cheery as they float helplessly with the wind waiting to be decimated by ravenous children or a loopy dog. Yet, they are slimy, sticky, slippery, and makes gobs of messes that only a parent can truly appreciate in this statement. We can't forget the wonderful tears of not-so-joy, when they pop in our eyes. Okay, am I being a Debbie Downer right now? Seriously...bubbles are one of those magical things that we can't live without in our home. I'll take all the previously mentioned "cons" of these floating, iridescent orbs any day. As a matter of fact, I can't remember a time we didn't have some type of bubble wand (homemade or store bought) or machine that seems to make even more impressive bubble concoctions every time I visit our local retailer. I even recall a time when I was researching professional grade bubble machines because I thought they were so cool. Bubbles...such a mysteriously joyous thing!

June 19, 2011

beat the heat...

Went to a co-worker's wedding yesterday out in Lodi. Yup, you heard me right, Lodi! Totally expecting 100 degree weather, the bride was prepared with these gorgeous fans. Fortunately, the weather was mild and fans became a fun novelty to match the lanterns that filled the property.

April 22, 2011

class cupcakes...

With my baby girl's birthday falling over Spring Break this year, her teacher asked if we wanted her to celebrate it before they left for vacation, or when they returned. She chose to celebrate before. Knowing they were already having a small class Easter party, I chose to keep with a Spring theme and make mini cupcakes. So, the day before I got my copy of Family Fun mag and they had these cute little crystal-covered chocolate shapes (they had butterflies, but I didn't think the boys in her class would want those so I went with different colors flowers instead). Basically, I melted down some white chocolate, piped it onto waxed paper into the flower shapes and covered them with different colored dusting sugars. They best part was EVERY kid ate EVERY part of the cupcake (no leftover cakes here)!

April 10, 2011

inchy inch worm...

While prepping my planter box today, my daughter and I came across this little guy. He was seriously tiny...no longer than a centimeter. Thanks heavens for built in macros on point-and-shoots. I took a few shots of this little dude, and then let him go onto a giant flat-leaf parsley plant. I hope he likes it! :)

April 7, 2011

spring is springing...

Our neighbor has this amazing climbing miniature rose that has invaded our yard. I use the term invaded very loosely, as it's a positive thing! It adds so much color and joy to that section of our yard and covers our hideous-looking shed. On another note, I started playing in Photoshop, and found some Actions online that I thought I'd give a whirl. Clearly, I'm having a ton of fun! And, I'm just in love with this picture and its retro look.

hello little birdie...

One of the things I LOVE about Spring are all the birds that reappear from their winter hiding spots. I was relaxing in my courtyard when this little guy appeared. There are a few that are hanging around, and as I fill the feeder in the backyard, we get a slough of birds that visit. Now, if I can only keep our pooch, Charlie, from wanting to eat them!

chocolate chip cupcakes...

Made these beauties on a whim. Actually, my 5 (soon to be 6)-year-old made most of them...proudly measuring everything out. It was her idea to make them, and I was thrilled when I found this A-mazing recipe online. The recipe follows (which I found on Delish.com, such an appropriate name for a site, right?). These are a must-try!!!

Chocolate-Chip Cupcakes With Cream-Cheese Frosting

Yields: 14 cupcakes

Oven Temp: 350


  • 8 ounce(s) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 ounce(s) (package) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) flour
  • 1/4 cup(s) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 tablespoon(s) white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup(s) canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon(s) almond extract


  • 1/2 cup(s) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 ounce(s) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cup(s) confectioners’ sugar
  • chocolate sprinkles, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners. In medium mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until well mixed. Whisk egg in small bowl and add to cream-cheese mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips; set aside.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add 1 cup water, vinegar, oil and almond extract. Using electric mixer, beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth and thick. Spoon batter evenly into prepared pans, filling about halfway. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of cream-cheese mixture onto center of each cupcake.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed and tops are slightly browned. Cool 5 minutes in pans, then transfer cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. While cupcakes are cooling, make frosting. In large bowl with electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and almond extract on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until smooth. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy. Frost cupcakes; top with chocolate sprinkles.

March 13, 2011

gettin' my cookie on...

I seriously can't get enough of these Williams Sonoma message-in-a-cookie cutters. Giving them color is even more fun. These were made for the kids' basketball teammates. So much fun creating these!!


When I first started teaching, one of the things that I loved doing was creating huge posters for events. They're your typical school posters with tempera paint, but fun nonetheless. I decided to make one for this year's science fair for the parents, so they got the info. Being one of two teachers that coordinate our school's science fair, making it a success is important, and I got to feel a little creative with my poster!

thin mint brownies...

With girl scout cookies season in full swing, I had to support my little Daisy Scout and purchase cookies. 12 boxes of thin mints later... no, I didn't eat all those, but I did order them all...I decided to try out this recipe. It's not the one you find on the GS website, but an even better one. I found this recipe on The Food Librarians blog, and I have to admit, they were quite delicious. Unfortunately, I did get to enjoy them as they were made for my kids' basketball coaches. What I did like about the, though, was the brownie really maintained its integrity and the thin mints added a nice hint of mint. Definitely a recipe I'll be using again...with 11-1/2 more boxes of thin mints, I think it might be a good idea!

Here's the recipe for those that want to give it a whirl...

peet's coffee "cup" cake...

Our Cub Scouts pack has an annual Fella's Cake Bake where dads make a cake with their sons and these cakes get auctioned off at our pack meeting. I decided to do a mystery cake this year because 1) I've had this idea to ask Peet's to donate their coffee of the month club, and 2) it's hard for to sit back and watch them bake without getting in there too, so this was my way getting involved without getting involved. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this cake brings in lots for our Pack!

February 18, 2011


I found this recipe that I was dying to try. They were chocolate sour cream cupcakes with raspberry cheesecake buttercream. I was really excited at how they turned out. The flavor combination is a no brainer, but I just loved how the colors went together, too. The only thing I would change for the next time would be the color liners. I definitely thing the brown liners would have given these a sleeker look.

Next up... Girl Scout Thin Mint brownies!

February 5, 2011


With the upcoming movie, Gnomeo and Juliet, coming out soon, we thought we'd go with that theme for our Valentine's cards this year. Thanks to Family Fun magazine for this adorable idea, we made 50 Hershey Kiss gnomes that will be placed on a home-made card. Until then, our little army of Gnomeo's are on display on a cake pedestal.

January 30, 2011

mexican breakfast...

A couple days ago I went to a friend's for breakfast, and was thrilled to see all this yummy mexican food. This morning, I "tried" to replicate the breakfast. It included Mexican hot chocolate, the Mexican breads from the panaderia, chorizo & eggs, eggs with green chili's, refried beans, corn tortillas, and cotija cheese.

January 3, 2011


This photo simply cracked me up. My daughter took this of her Little-ist Pet Shop bobble head toys, which were all perched on top of a football stand that she made at a Home Depot Kids event. Since she doesn't play football, she decided to turn it over and turn it into a table. We never got around to painting it, although her older brother decided to use his as a plate for pancakes one day (which ended up staining it, so I got him to throw his out). These kids just crack me up. Oh, and Happy New Year!!!