Thursday, 29 December 2011

Rancho Penasquitos

We took a drive to see the holiday lights on Oviedo Street, Twin Trails Drive, Barrymore Street and Amber Sky Lane.

This house offered an interactive display.

A chance to stick your head through the cutout and become an elf.

A slow and steady stream of cars flowed through the neighborhood. Cameras flashed. Children were pushed in strollers. Some of the homeowners sat in their driveway and greeted those passing by.

A fun way to enjoy the Christmas lights before the end of the year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Can't Complain

It is super chilly in the morning.

Put on your slippers kinda weather.

But afternoons are reaching 70 and upward.

So there is really nothing to whine about except the lack of parking at the beach.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Was the first of the twenty-one California Missions founded by Father Junipero Serra.

This fountain is located in the courtyard.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Lumberyard in Encinitas

On the day before Christmas, there should be lots of red and green and the sound of music.

And there was.

In a courtyard.

Along Highway 101 in Encinitas.

A place for hanging out. 

Getting some sun.

Before Santa comes to town.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Gingerbread Houses

Are a big part of our holiday tradition.

Years ago we took the time to design blueprints, cut out templates, roll dough and bake the components. We created faux glass windows and set twinkle lights inside to cast a dreamy glow.

Fast this year.

Six people, 3 kits (1 mini-village and 2 big houses assembled and dried ahead of time), 3 piping bags, lots of potential landscaping materials (pretzels, marshmallows, shredded wheat cereal, edible rocks) and a slew of gum drops and other candies.

Our creative group scored very high in originality.

We did, however, fall down in the area of execution and precision.

Here are some pictures.

The Green House featured a solar panel, garden and Prius (plugged in and getting charged).

Gum paste Santa on pretzel legs took 'a dive'.
No problem, it became a large ham in the process of being cured.
Hey, if you grow your own vegetables, it only makes sense to raise your own meats.

The Fun House has a putting green, lit walkway, shamrock over front door and a large dragon.
The gazebo took 'a dive' and became a bonfire. The gingerbread man is grilling over hot flames.
Gum paste Santa had a meltdown on the chimney and was speared and put out of his misery.

The Mini Village featured lots of water, fish, a dog and Santa who started to drown but revived
by doing the backstroke. Elsewhere the pretzel bridge collapsed and was replaced by an abominable
marshmallow snowman who was unable to forge the raging river.

By the end of the night, all our houses had a story to tell!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Structurally Unsound

In terms of my skill set, I am unable to list construction.

Or its subset.


Even though the graphic on the gingerbread house kit, that is designed for children, diagrams how the front, sides and top should come together, I managed to have numerous cave-ins.

For the mini-house, it set in this condition.

Thank goodness we live in a mild climate. 

With little rain.

For the big house, it was a matter of drafts.

Really big side drafts.

Tore it all apart and let the roof 'hang' over the sides (like it was supposed to in the first place) but we'll see if it sets up without collapsing.

Before the landscapers and house painters arrive, I am going to work on a water feature. 

The choices seem to be blue jello, blue fruit roll up, a mirror or aluminum foil (if we decide on an ice pond) or melting blue Jolly Rancher hard candies into a puddle.

Stay tuned.

Friday, 16 December 2011


Ornaments and Christmas decorations make lovely gifts but they get packed away almost as soon as they are unwrapped and exclaimed over.

But that's ok.

When the holidays roll around again, it's like getting an unexpected gift that has fond memories.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Holiday Sing-Along in Escondido

Heading up to the Music Room.

Although I cannot carry a tune, I enjoy singing.


With fervor.

Christmas tunes in particular.

This is what prompted a visit to the Escondido Public Library last night.

For the first half hour, we listened to young performers.

Already poised and talented.

Her feet will eventually reach the pedals.

At 6:30, with the accompaniment of a harpist…..

...a pianist and a sparkly soloist (that went for the really high notes), we spent a cheery hour belting out the classics like The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Although it was a small, scattered audience, in a large room, there was energy in the crowd.

And much amusement.

This little girl adjusted her Mom’s reading glasses till she had them just so.

And then spent the rest of the evening twisting in her seat to peer at the exuberant singers behind her!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Cranberry Tree

Quick, simple, inexpensive holiday project.

If you have leftover cranberries, a box of toothpicks and a styrofoam cone hanging around your house.

Snap the toothpicks in half and press the blunt end halfway into the cone (starting at the base).

Place as close together as you can and keep going.

When you pass the halfway point, turn the cone and set it down on the base and work from that direction.

Ready for the table.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Zinc Cafe in Solana Beach

Three good reasons to take a break while holiday shopping in the Cedros Design District.

Zinc Sunrise (orange juice, peach juice, raspberry puree)

Water Fountain.

Shade or sun, pick your preference.

Stop by Zinc Cafe to rest and recharge.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Christmas Cake Pops

Ok, this time I followed the rules.

I baked a white cake mix from a box. After it cooled, I crumbled it into a bowl and then scooped out ¾ can of cream cheese frosting and used two forks to combine the ingredients.

Then I did the same thing with a red velvet cake mix and cream cheese frosting.

I rolled balls and formed cones, trying to keep them on the small side. The cones were intended to be Santa hats or Christmas trees but was told my free-form technique resulted in dunce caps.

Then into the fridge for chilling.

Some very creative gals joined me at the table to decorate. 

We used red, white and green melting chocolate and the fun began.

At this point, I would like to offer some constructive tips and tricks to prevent the following comments:

“Oh no, it’s sliding off.”

“We’ve got crumbs in the chocolate.”

“My pop looks like poop.”

“Here's another one for the ugly tray.”

and so on and so forth.

What we learned:  It is best to keep the balls and other shapes small. Once the chocolate is melted, work quickly, dip popsicle stick into a little chocolate and then push it into ball. Dip the ball into chocolate  and swirl until covered. Tap off excess. Count to 20 before you roll your pop in coconut, mini-chocolate chips, sprinkles, chopped nuts, etc. or you will have a messy ball and frosting all over your toppings.

Exhibit A: The cake pop with the mini-chips (see below) was dipped too quickly. The cake pop rolled in walnuts was able to set up just a bit (the 20-count) and then dipped for a well-covered and attractive nutty ball of goodness.

Make some pops with no toppings (as shown above). Let them dry after dipping and then use a toothpick to dab melted chocolate and adhere items like a piece of carrot for your snowman’s nose. Or a pair of chocolate chip movie star sunglasses.

"May I help you with your bags?" asked the cake pop bellman.

"Aye Aye Captain, my patch is slipping and my one good eye needs a monocle."

"Bonjour Madame, are you attracted to my marshmallow beret?"

Have fun.

It is a very messy process. You will get sticky.

You might even be horrified by some of the results.

But the next day, you will see your line-up of cake pops and start laughing.

Out loud.

At the cuteness.

The imperfections will...

...disappear overnight.

Monday, 5 December 2011

My First Attempt at Cake Pops

Bakerella is the queen of cake pops.

This weekend was my first attempt to master the art.

My thought was to go simple.

Very simple.

Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s (which is basically a festive Oreo cookie) + cream cheese + lollipop stick + chocolate bath + decorations = delightful treat.

What could go wrong?

I tossed the cookies into a food processor and pulsed until it made cookie dirt.

Scooped that into a Kitchen Aid bowl (because I wanted to see how many appliances I could use for one simple project) with a package of cream cheese and blended away.

Rolled a spoonful of dough into a ball and then repeated the process until the bowl was empty.

Put the tray in the fridge to chill.

During the refrigeration process, it dawned on me that I didn’t make very many balls.

So I went and counted.

Twenty-one balls.

Twenty-two, if you count the one I ate tested.

Hmmmm, I think this recipe is for 50 treats. Which means that my balls are way too big. And will probably fall off the stick. And if they manage to hang on they will look absurdly top-heavy.

Time to regroup.

Found small cupcake liners in the back of the pantry.

Melted a bag of chocolate chips in a double boiler. Tossed the balls in and stirred to get them completely covered in chocolate.

Rolled each one in a different topping (coconut, sprinkles, chopped walnuts, chopped almonds, mini chocolate chips). Then placed carefully into a liner.


In summation: I made cake pops that did not contain any cake and and are not on a stick which is the pop aspect of a cake pop.

Tomorrow I will try again.