Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Class Prep . . .

I'm sure a lot of you take classes at your local store. I never realized how much prep time goes into one until we started offering classes in our store and I noticed that the teachers are always there! So today I'm offering a look behind the scenes for those of you who haven't "been there" . . .

Donna Weibel has been planning for her "Totally Tim" tags class ever since she went to Tim Holtz' Creative Escape in Phoenix last fall. Yes, she has been in the presence of the master! I have no idea how long she worked on this at home, but Donna started setting up in our classroom at 12:30 Tuesday afternoon and was there until 6:00. I don't think it always takes this long, but I could tell by the look on Donna's face that she has a passion for this project!

I came in at 8:30 Wednesday morning and took some pictures, and she was here at 9:00 for the 10:00 a.m. class. She brought a gourmet breakfast . . .

This was Donna's supply station in the middle of the class table.

At both ends of the table, she had Distress Ink Pads and Applicators on individual marked plates.

Another table was set up for stamping and other steps in the project (translation -- I forgot to ask what she was going to do here).

And she had another table set up with all of the Tim Holtz products the students were using in the class. Makes shopping a lot easier after the class is finished!

At 10:00, everyone was in place and class was ready to begin. At least three of these students also teach classes in our store, so they understand what goes into advance planning and setup.

And here are a few of the tags they were making . . .

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Kind of "Make It and Take It" Project . . .

I think everyone has a snickerdoodle recipe. This one came from my wife, and she got it from the Betty Crocker Cookbook when she was little. I was always a chocolate chip cookie kid, so I had never had snickerdoodles (and I thought the name was silly) until we started dating. She came from a family that likes its cookies crunchy, but I'm a chewy guy, so I had to put on a good show the first time I bit into one. Eventually, I got the recipe and made some changes to suit my tastes (translation -- Carla said "If you don't like mine, make them yourself!"). So if you like cookies that melt in your mouth, I think you'll enjoy these.


½ cup soft shortening
1 stick margarine
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

In the pictures that follow, keep in mind that I was making a double batch when I shot them. These things go so fast that I never make a single . . .

Other than the baking time, this was the only change that I made to the original recipe -- instead of all shortening or all margarine, I use half of each. I like Crisco sticks -- they're easy and the wrapper is already measured so you can just cut off what you need.

I start by blending the shortening, margarine, and sugar with my favorite wooden spoon. I have used it for so long that the original straight handle is now curved. . .

Then I add the cream of tartar, salt, baking soda, and eggs. Two notes -- I never use as much salt as the recipe calls for (I'm just not a salt guy), and because of the high cholesterol that runs in my family I use Egg Beaters (but the cookies taste just as good with regular eggs).

After the eggs and such are mixed in thoroughly, it's time to start adding flour.

If you use regular eggs, you'll only need what the recipe calls for. For Egg Beaters, I have to add a little more flour to make up for the extra moisture. When you're done, the dough looks like the picture at right.

The recipe probably makes about three dozen cookies, but we've never gotten that many because Carla and Ryan love the dough all by itself, so I have to leave a bowl for each of them.

Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and put them on a piece of wax paper.

In a little bowl, make a mixture of three parts sugar and one part cinnamon, and coat the dough balls before putting them on a cookie sheet. When my parents are home, I bake a few cookies without the coating (Carla refers to this as "without the doodles") because my dad likes them that way.

Ready to go into the oven. If you like them chewy like I do, bake for exactly 9½ minutes at 400 degrees.

The cookies will be a little "puffed up" as you take them out of the oven, but they'll fall a little as they cool.

Finished product -- not only are they very good, they're usually quite attractive . . .

I hope you're all having a wonderful Memorial Day. This is always a great day for grilling out and enjoying family, and around here it signifies the first day of summer. But I was reminded of the true meaning on Saturday, when we inducted three alumni of my high school into the school's Hall of Fame. All three were POWs during World War II, and one was able to attend our alumni banquet. I was close enough to see his reaction as he was introduced and several hundred people came to their feet to applaud his courage more than 65 years ago. It was easily the highlight of the evening. To you and/or your loved ones who also served -- thanks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Make It/Take It Card

This is the Make It/Take It card that Dawn Cutter led in our store last Wednesday. Dawn was very thorough -- gave me a detailed list with supply and assembly instructions. Now that you've seen where we're headed, this is how to get there. It's quick and easy and comes in handy when you need a card NOW . . .

Stamps: Inkadinkado "Birds in a Tree" and "Expressions"
Ink: Black inkpad
Cardstock: White (5½" x 8½", folded or scored at 4¼"), Kraft (4¼" x 5½", 3½" x 2¼" and 1½" x 2"), Pink (5¼" x 4"), Ivory/Cream (3¼" x 2½" and 1¼" x 1¾")
Accessories: Acrylic Block, Cuttlebug, "Birds & Swirls" Cuttlebug Embossing Folder, Double Sided Adhesive, and Pop Dots.

Run the pink cardstock through the Cuttlebug using the Birds & Swirls embossing folder.

Adhere the pink cardstock to the front of the folded white piece with double sided adhesive.

Stamp the "Birds in a Tree" image on the 3¼" x 2 ½" ivory cardstock, then use double sided adhesive to adhere it to the 3½" x 2¾" kraft cardstock.

Then stamp your sentiment of choice on the 1¼" x 1¾" ivory cardstock and adhere it to the 1½" x 2" kraft cardstock with double sided adhesive.

You can assemble the card with either double sided adhesive or pop dots, with the tree image at bottom right and the sentiment at a diagonal in the upper left.

All done -- thanks to Dawn Cutter for another great project.

Occupational Hazard . . .

This is what remains of my favorite two-wheeler (some of you may know this contraption as a hand truck). It has a nice wide base and I have used it for nearly ten years when setting up and tearing down our booth. Only the tires have been replaced over the years -- it has been a hard worker and a faithful friend.

The end came last Sunday in Ocean City, Maryland. I was taking out the first load during teardown, and when the wheels hit the liftgate both pipes just snapped. But it performed to the end -- I got the load onto the truck before I realized what had happened. Thankfully, I had a backup available, but it's not the same (sniff).

Gary is convinced that it can be welded, but I'm not so sure. I don't want it to suffer anymore.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Travel Day

This was an idea suggested by a customer, who wanted to know what a day on the road in that big truck was like. So I started snapping pictures Thursday morning. Some of them turned out well, and some are truly awful (but as you'll see, I guess they're proof that I was keeping my eye on the road instead of the viewfinder -- I just pointed and shot).

A little background -- I always get out later than I plan. Something always gets in the way. This time, it was Mother Nature -- the electricity at home was out for five hours on Wednesday evening. So I had to finish the load of laundry I had in when the power went out, reset the clocks, finish my computer work, etc. But I did better than usual -- I was only about an hour off!

8:40 a.m. -- Zoe and I arrive at the kennel (she's staying -- I'm not). We learned early on that Carla and Ryan can't sleep when I'm out of town and Zoe is at home -- she cries all night long. Thankfully, this is a small third-generation family-run kennel, and Zoe absolutely loves it. She gets excited as soon as she sees me start to gather her food and toys.

9:00 a.m. -- Next stop is the Countryside YMCA, where I work out five days a week. I'll bet you thought we get our exercise setting up that big booth -- I exercise SO I can set up that big booth.

This is the Cardio Strength Center at the Y. The Nautilus machines and I are good friends . . .

10:15 a.m. -- Arrive at the mail center, where the truck is loaded and ready to leave for Ocean City. The rain has stopped for the time being, but the Weather Channel says the windshield wipers could be on most of the day.

Luggage in the cab, satellite radio in the cradle, and after a stop at the store, ready to roll . . .

12:30 p.m. -- Rolling through downtown Columbus on I-70.

1:40 p.m. -- The truck is hungry, and so am I. When I make stops, I try to do several things at the same time. And I have a coupon for a free Roastburger . . .

Have to use truck stops as much as possible since our truck has tanks on both sides.

Update the stop in my log book. Have to keep the log book up-to-date at all times . . .

2:10 p.m. -- Because if the Weigh Station sign says "Open", it might be checked to make sure I'm following all the rules.

Most of the time, a trip through the Weigh Station is just a weight check, but once in a while the truck and paperwork get checked, too. This time, a USDA crew was checking contents in random trucks (including mine -- I had to get out and open the back door to give them a peek at the booth). The truck above was behind me in the line.

3:10 p.m. -- Headed down the hill toward Wheeling, getting ready to cross the Ohio River. Almost missed the "Welcome to West Virginia" sign.

3:25 p.m. -- Only in West Virginia for about 15 minutes -- then it's on to Pennsylvania.
4:20 p.m. -- Going onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike at New Stanton.

5:00 p.m. -- Rest Areas on the Turnpike have a little bit of everything -- gas, food, souvenirs, and lots of people.

5:15 p.m. -- I have always enjoyed tunnels . . .

5:50 p.m. -- Off the Turnpike at Breezewood.
6:20 p.m. -- If it had been in focus, this would have been the "Welcome to Maryland" sign.

6:50 p.m. -- Stops along the way require nice big spots to park the truck. Outlet malls are always a good choice, and give me a chance for a brisk walk. This one didn't get any of my money, though . . .

7:50 p.m. -- The signs ahead announce the split ahead. To the right is I-270 headed to Washington, to the left I-70 continues to Baltimore. I used to go the right, but a few years ago a friend showed me a shortcut that avoids the Beltway around Washington, so left it is.

Two things curtailed most of the picture show at this point -- it got dark, and it started POURING rain.

9:15 p.m. -- Still raining at the entrance to the Bay Bridge across Chesapeake Bay. Really nice view when it's not pitch dark . . .

11:20 p.m. -- The rain has stopped, but the dark hasn't. The truck will soon stop for the night, as this is the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City. You can go right out the back door onto the beach, but I won't be able to see that until morning.

These two shots weren't taken until the next morning, but it just didn't seem fair for you to come all this way with me and not get a look at the view from behind the hotel . . .