Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Day of School - 2011

I know that school started last week, but I am finally posting the first day of school pictures!
I made this dress for Georgia for the first day of Kindergarten. I suggested that she might want to go ahead and pass this down to Olivia now, but she insisted on wearing it one more time!

Olivia is excited to have a wonderful teacher this year for Kindergarten, who happens to be the same teacher Georgia had and one of our neighbors!

Olivia and Georgia

Sophia insisted on jumping in on the pictures too!

What's Cookin' Wednesday - Pretzel Bites

I saw this idea on Pinterest and it originated from the blog, Fake Ginger.
So, I decided to give it a try...

Don't you love my flour canister? I bought the can at Ikea, and then added vinyl lettering and a scoop from The Container Store. Last year, my new year's resolution was to learn to bake good bread. Check. This year, my new year's resolution was to lose the extra weight I gained from all that good bread. No check :( But, I have a couple of months left of this year! ;)

I gathered the ingredients and got to work. Okay, so I had to go across the street and borrow some flour from my neighbor, Allison, because I was almost out! But, after that, I got to work.

I got out my kitchen aide (love it!) stand mixer and attached the dough hook.

My trusty assistants put on some music and began to dance. However, note that dancing is not required for the success of the recipe!

Here is what the dough looked like after it is mixed up and ready to rise.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise.

Whoa, Nelly. It rose!

Prepare your baking sheets. I only have one baking sheet because I always use my pampered chef baking stone for baking. So, I prepared them both. (note - I couldn't tell any difference in the results from either one)

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 425 degrees and put your pot of water on to boil. Now, the original recipe wasn't very specific about when you add the baking soda - before or after the water boils. It might not have been specific because she assumed everyone would know what would happen if you let your water boil first.

I did not know exactly what kind of chemical reaction would happen when you add baking soda to boiling water. I do now. Oh boy, do I ever.

Holy Baking Soda Mess! I had something of a geyser going on in my kitchen, and had a huge mess to clean up. I am not totally sure that my gas stove igniter is going to work again. ever. My advice to you is to be sure and put your baking soda in with the water and let them boil together. I kept thinking that I bet this has never happened to The Pioneer Woman and I guess I have blown my chance at having my own show on the Food Network!!

Next, divide the dough into 8 pieces. This is a very elastic dough, so it isn't necessary to flour your surface for this part.

Roll out your dough into a strip that is approximately 22 inches long. I did not get out a ruler, just eyeball it!

Now, you need to cut your strip into approximately one inch long pieces. I used a pair of kitchen shears to make this super quick.

You will end up with a TON of pieces. I don't know the exact yield of this recipe, because as soon as they came out of the oven, we started to eat them!

After I cleaned up the HUGE mess and started a new pot of boiling water, I got back to cooking. I placed the dough pieces into the boiling water about a dozen at a time, for about 30 seconds.

Using a big slotted spoon, I removed the dough pieces and placed them on my baking stone/sheet, making sure they didn't touch. I brushed each piece with an egg wash, and liberally sprinkled them with salt.

Here they are, ready to go into the oven. They bake for about 15 minutes.

And, here they are, out of the oven. They turn a really wonderful golden brown.

I put aside a dozen for my neighbor who donated the flour!

And the rest, I am having to hide so the children don't eat them all!

Verdict: YUMMO! with a double Yum!

Pretzel Bites

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled just slightly
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
coarse sea salt

On low speed, mix the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and 4 1/2 cups of the flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Spray a bowl with cooking spray (or oil with vegetable oil), add the dough and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Spray two baking sheets liberally with cooking spray.

Bring the water and the baking soda to a boil over high heat.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring about 22 inches. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches of about 10-15 for 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place the pretzel bites on the prepared baking sheets, making sure they aren’t touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove to a cooling rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. (I can promise you that other than burning your mouth, there is no penalty for not waiting the full 5 minutes)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Nitty Gritty about Twitter

Do you have a smart phone that is smarter than you are? Have you been wondering what the deal is with twitter? Well, I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I put together some basics to share with you.

I think twitter boils down to this - say something interesting or funny or informational in 140 characters or less.

@sweetfunkyvint - is my twitter account - so obviously the @ symbol preceds someones account name. Often, people will tweet and use several different people's accounts, because you can sort your twitter feed to show only those tweets that mention you. So, if you want to be sure that someone very specific (whether they follow you or not) sees your tweet, you want to address them in the tweet to increase the chances they see it.
For example, if I have had bad or good customer service from a company, I may tweet about it and refer to them with their twitter account name in the tweet to be sure they (their marketing dept) sees it.
I got several hundred dollars in compensation from Delta one time by starting a conversation with them by tweeting - after a particularly crappy flight experience. Companies are paying attention. I tweeted during blogher about the keynote speaker - the CEO of Pepsico - and their marketing dept tweeted back with me a couple of times.

So, besides the @ symbol, you also need to be familiar with the # symbol - which with regards to twitter is called a hashtag. On twitter, there are topics that many people are talking about and those are called trending topics. Right now, a couple of trending topics are The Help and #replacemovienameswithbacon.
So, as you can tell, some trending topics are kind of rediculous, but literally thousands of people are tweeting about it to make it a trending topic. Weird huh?

On your twitter page, you will see some tabs. The first (default) tab is the timeline. You will see the tweets of people you follow. Likewise, your tweets only show up on the twitter feeds of those who follow you. The more people you follow, the more crowded your twitter feed gets. Some of these tweets will be interesting, and some will be crap, or advertising. I try not to tweet business/advertising stuff very often, because if other people feel about it like I feel about it, it is largely ignored.
The next tab over is called @mentions - this is where you can see those tweets that use your twitter handle (@yourname) in them. A retweet is just what it sounds like. You can choose to retweet a tweet you read that you agree with, or want your followers to see as well, and it will be posted again, by you, to those who follow you. So, the next column/tab allows you to see those tweets you retweet, or those you originally tweeted, that others retweeted.
I can't tell you much about lists. But, as I understand it, you can organize those that you follow into categories. Which, can obviously come in handy when you have a bunch of people you follow.
So, how do you get followers? You tweet. And, you follow people. Often, people will follow you if you follow them. They get an email notification when someone new follows them (as do you), and they may choose to follow in return - many do.
When you see tweets of someone you think is interesting, follow them. You can always unfollow later. And, they don't get notification if you unfollow them later.
A quick way to find new people to follow is to look through the list of followers of people you follow and see who you might also like to follow. It isn't like facebook where you don't want to friend your friend's friends cause that's weird. Here, it is totally acceptable! My recommendation to you is to find your friends' twitter names and follow them, and then start following people you find that you like. Twitter will even make some suggestions for you to find new people to follow.

Do you have any specific questions about twitter that I can answer?

Don't forget to follow us on twitter!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Life is a Special Occasion!

As you know, Jessica and I attended the BlogHer convention here in San Diego a few weeks ago. What an amazing day it was. We went to network and learn more about blogging and how it can benefit our business, Sweet Funky Vintage. We attended some awesome seminars and the expo hall was nothing short of amazingly fun!
One of the booths we stopped by was the Hallmark booth. They were promoting a recent initiative, "Life is a Special Occasion". We were invited to take a t-shirt and complete the sentence ... is a special occasion and have our photo taken. Everyone filled the booth with a collage of their sentences - so very cool.

About this new campaign, Hallmark says, "In early 2011, Hallmark introduced a new campaign called “Life Is a Special Occasion.” This is more than a tagline — it’s a call for all of us to push the pause button on the blur of daily life, and think about the beauty of unplanned, perfectly imperfect moments shared with loved ones. Hallmark recognizes these little ‘us’ moments are what make life truly meaningful."

I don't know about you, but I really love this. I love to give cards for no reason other than it made me laugh really hard. And, I love to receive a sweet note from an old friend on a day when I really, really need it. I know that I feel sometimes that I am rushing through life. We always have something scheduled, somewhere we are rushing off to (late it seems) and we are always in a hurry. I really like the idea of taking a break from the rush and the hurry to stop and enjoy each other.

Let's face it, when it comes to greeting cards, nobody says it better than Hallmark.
I encourage you to "like" Hallmark on facebook. They share upbeat messages like today's "When life gets overwhelming, just remember: Somewhere in this great big world of ours is a dog in a funny costume."

Some new things Hallmark has in stores an online are some really neat products for kids to provide encouragement and inspire confidence.
I really like this guy - Bug Em:

You can stuff little notes or surprises inside his pouch whenever your kids need a pick me up. We have a similar Valentine's tradition in our house. A few years ago, I made little felt pillows for everyone with a heart pocket. For the entire month of February, we leave a love note for our family members in their pockets for them to find each day. Bug Em will allow this to continue throughout the year!

Hallmark has some great games in stores right now - affordable and fun games that are perfect for rainy days, road trips and birthday parties. They have also partnered up with Dr. Toy to offer some of the best toys and games on the market today.

So, to help you remember that Life is a Special Occasion, we are joining with Hallmark to award one winner with a Life is a Special Occasion T-Shirt and greeting card pack!
To enter:
1) post here and answer the statement, " .... is a special occasion"
For additional entries:

2) "like" Hallmark on facebook and post a comment on their page telling them Sweet Funky Vintage sent you! Come back here and tell us that you did it for an additional entry.

3) "like" us on facebook and post a comment on your facebook page telling your friends to come enter the giveaway. Come back here and tell us you did it for an additional entry.

4) Tweet about our giveaway and come back here and tell us you did it for an additional entry.

Important!!! Deadline has been extended! Enter now!
Giveaway will end midnight, Sunday 9/11/11. Please post separate comments for each entry. We will draw and post the winner here on our blog, Monday, 9/12/11.

Wondering who won last week's giveaway of the re-usable snack bags for earth friendly kid's lunches??
Congratulations to Sheila from Michigan! Please email us to claim your prize!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Great Reads for Kids

My husband and I are readers. We love to read. And, it is really important to us that our girls love to read as well.
Georgia definitely has a love of books. When she was seven, she saved up her birthday money and all her spare change to buy a kindle. We helped her to buy her kindle and she has taken really good care of it and reads even more than she did before. Our philosophy is to buy her the books that she wants to read and to encourage her to read some of our choices too. When she was four, we started with the American Girl books. I read them aloud to her and we made our way through each of the books of the historical girls.
In case you have a child in your life to shop for - books are always a really good gift.
Here are a few of our favorites...

Frindle by Andrew Clements - Trying to aggravate a tough language-arts teacher, a fifth-grade boy invents a new word for pen: "frindle." Soon, the whole country is using it.
-This is a great book to donate to a classroom library as well!

Just Grace by Charice Mericle Harper - Grade 2–4—Just Grace starts with a list of missed opportunities and finishes with the rich possibility of a new friend. In between, third-grader Grace Stewart sends postcards to her next-door neighbor (purporting to be from Crinkles, the neighbor's own cat), draws comics of Not-So-Super ("but still good") superheroes, plays detective with her best friend when Crinkles goes missing, tries to avoid the odious Sammy Stringer, and establishes herself as a true original in a class with not one, but four, Graces.
- This is a whole series of books, and Georgia loves them!

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Grade 2-4–Clementine, a not-so-common third grader, knows her way around the principal's office as well as she does the art-supply closet.
- Another series of books - we love getting to know more and more about favorite characters!

The Froggy books by Jonathan London. This is a pretty big series of kids picture books. All of my girls love to read them over and over again! You name it, there is probably a froggy book about it! Georgia was already a fan when she was able to "meet" the Froggy character at our local public library several years ago.

What are some of your kids' favorite books?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Favorite Things Friday - Blog Love and Kitchen Candles

Today's Favorite Things Friday topic is Blog Love and Kitchen Candles. I don't have time to read a lot of blogs every day. I am lucky if I get a chance to glance at one or two a day. Some weeks I may only look at a couple. But, I really love blogs. There are some readers you can subscribe to that will allow you to put your favorite blogs on a list and you can see a condensed version of their latest blog post. I have tried this in an effort to be able to catch up on a long list of favorite blogs. But, I found that I really like to "visit" the blogs personally and see all the pictures and read more than just the most recent posts. If I am engaged in what I am reading, I may scroll back through the last few months worth of posts.

The Pioneer Woman's Home and Garden Blog - I could blog an entire blog post about how much I love The Pioneer Woman. I think everyone knows how much I love her recipes (and CANNOT wait for her new show on the Food Network to start Sat 8/27 at 11:30am eastern. Have you set your DVR yet?)
I recently introduced her to my neighbor, Allison, and she is also hooked! But, when I don't have a lot of time to just hang out on her website, just a few minutes time spent on her Home and Garden posts always make me happy. And she often does some really rockin' giveaways!

Another blog I try to pop over to when I can is Make and Takes. It is about craft, food and fun - three of my favorite things!
I get some great, really usable ideas and they often link to other blogs that I enjoy discovering.

I have posted about One Charming Party before, but when I need party inspiration, I always go here first. Sometimes, I just go here and decide I need to throw a party!

Making It Lovely is another blog I enjoy visiting from time to time. She puts together great outfits and great design ideas.

Shanty 2 Chic always inspires me to try creating things on my own, even if there are power tools involved! They also introduced me to some really great kinds of glue!

eighteen25 is a new blog I have started reading recently. I am really enjoying it. I love the ideas they share and the free printables!

What are your favorite blogs?

This week I have really enjoyed the kitchen candle I picked up at Target. It is from the Caldrea kitchen products line, which I also love and have been using for awhile now. The scent is Hibiscus Yuzu and it smells amazing! Target doesn't appear to sell it online, so you are going to need to visit your local store to pick one up. You'll be glad you did!