Between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, TASTE OF HOME have partnered with the USO to raise money for the troops overseas to call their loved ones back home. For every unique visitor to the Taste of Home Flag Cake Recipe, 10 cents will be donated.
Being a military wife, and a lover of cake, I had to get on board to get the word out about this fantastic campaign. And yes, of course I just had to make the cake. Here are a few tidbits of information.
Now head on over to TASTE OF HOME and view their Flag Cake recipe. Every click helps.
The military spouses club I volunteer for held a Cookie Exchange this month. A very generous military spouse opened up her beautiful home to us. We sipped wine and enjoyed some wonderful appetizers, we chatted and laughed, made new friends and didn't eat any cookies. Can you believe it. A cookie exchange where no cookies were eaten. Thank goodness we had boxes and bags on hand though because we all bundled up cookies from each platter along with the recipe cards and took them home to enjoy. And while we were collecting up those delicious cookies, we all enjoyed cups of my delicious hot chocolate.
Here are a few photographs from the party. We had such a great night.
My contribution to the Cookie Exchange:
VANILLA, PISTACHIO AND WHITE CHOCOLATE BISCOTTI
Preheat oven to 325F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl combine flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In another medium bowl beat sugar and butter with a mixer. Add eggs, lemon zest and vanilla and blend. Add flour mixture and pistachios and mix using a wooden spoon. Continue mixing until a dough forms. If it is too sticky, add more flour.
Place dough on the cookie sheet and shape into a log approx 1 1/2” high. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and cracked on top. Set aside to cool. Turn oven up to 425F.
Using a serrated knife, slice width-wise into 1/2” slices. Place on fresh parchment paper and bake for 3-4 minutes each side.
Melt white chocolate in the microwave. Dip biscotti into the white chocolate and leave on wax paper to set ... or drive to the party with the air conditioning blasting and the biscotti still on the cookie trays, praying that they set before you arrive, then transfer them to a serving dish in the back of the car before walking into the party. Not that I'm saying that's what happened or anything.
Note: This recipe makes approximately 35 biscotti
With thanks to Smart and Final and Collective Bias, not only was I able to purchase the ingredients to make my own recipe, but I was also able to put together a bag of baking goodies (containing items such as a cookie tray, parchment paper and the ingredients for my biscotti recipe), which I provided as a gift (via a raffle) to one of the military spouses at the event I attended.
Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post and a gift card was provided to purchase these #holidaybaking supplies and gift bag with thanks to Smart & Final and Collective Bias as part of the Smart & Final Pay It Forward Campaign.
Event: Wine and Cheese Tasting
For: Marine Corps Spouses
Wine and Cheese provided by: The Cheese Shop
As you may know, I'm on a board (along with some amazing women) who host monthly events and provide information to local Marine Corps Spouses. This month's event was a Wine and Cheese Tasting. We booked a lovely room with views over the bay (which was very pretty as the sun was setting), provided yummy desserts - chocolate fondue, brownies, fruit, and of course, I baked mini cupcakes which I decorated with tiny purple flowers (the theme for the evening), we hosted a raffle of various wines, and had Kent from The Cheese Shop in Carmel bring out an assortment of cheeses along with red and white wines for us to try. It was a really lovely night, with new friendships being formed, delicious food and much needed girl time.
My favorite wine: Harmony Cellars 2009 White Riesling
My favorite cheese: Dill Havarti and Fromage D'Affinois (Double Creme)
Here's my simple decorating tip for the tables: Canning jars filled with flowers in the color theme and surrounded by tealight candles. Guests don't have to look around or over the top of the centerpiece to chat, but it makes for a simple and elegant decoration for each table. I also placed these same flower arrangements with a tea light candle on either side in each of the windows overlooking the bay, which provided a lovely backdrop to the event.
A couple of other military spouse events we (or our groups predecessors) have previously arranged include:
Banana Republic event. Banana Republic closed it's doors to the public and shared with us some of the latest fashions, provided sparkling cider and snacks, a raffle and heavily discounted items in the event we wanted to make any purchases. And yes, if you click on the link above, you'll see photos of a few of the gorgeous items I tried on. I also picked up a skirt for $12 that you'll see photos of when I finally post about Bloggy Boot Camp in San Francisco. Ooh and the jeans I am wearing are the fabulous Miracle Body jeans I was given at BlogHer during the Getting Gorgeous event.
Mall Amazing Race. Mall style. Teams of 2 competing at the mall, each starts with a clue that will take them to a particular store, where a task has to be completed. For example, hula-hooping 10 times in a womens sports store. Making up a word using the first letter of each movie being shown at the movie theatre. Being given a picture at a framing store and having to find a mat and frame to fit it. Finding the SKU on a pair of shoes at Macy's. On-line search to answer a question posed at the Apple Store.
I also have a great group of friends I enjoy monthly outings with. We choose a different location each month so that we can always try something new. Sometimes we'll go out for dinner, trying a different cuisine each time, or we do brunch, or a movie night followed by a cocktail or dessert (or both). Most recently we saw Eat Pray Love (which I absolutely loved) and enjoyed a yummy dessert and coffee afterward. One of our favorite outings though was a Chocolate Tour of San Francisco.
Then there is a crafting group I belong to. We don't get together as often as I (or they) would like, but one of our favorite events is to book a local community center for a weekend and hold a craft weekend. We can come and go day or night and craft as long as we want without interruption. We take food, we chat, and most importantly, we craft and bond.
The reason I am sharing this with you, is that I hope to encourage my female readers (which I daresay is 99% of readership - according to my stats at least) to get out and spend more time with your girlfriends. Whether you are a stay-at-home or go-to-work mum, it's important not to forget that you are also a woman, a woman who needs other women, whether it's to enjoy a meal with, a shoulder to lean on when things look a little dark or just for idle chit chat. So I thought by sharing a few ideas I might inspire you to start a group, or give you fresh ideas for a group you may already be a part of.
Some of the groups I've been a part of previously, and others I haven't but might interest you:
Walking groups - walking once the big kids are in school or taking the little ones in the stroller and then stopping by a playground to let some of their energy out too.
Knitting group - I made it my mission at one time to teach my girlfriends how to knit, so we got together in the evenings and we drank wine and I provided a little knitting kit for each and taught them the basics. A couple of them actually kept it up, and I'm pretty sure are much better than I am now :).
Breakfast group - one of the things I miss dearly about living in Australia is my fabulous group of girlfriends. Each morning we would drop the kids off at school, then walk to a little cafe and enjoy breakfast together. Sometimes a couple of us would then walk around the local lake, go to the mall, watch Oprah or have lunch together. Not every day of course. But it did happen regularly. And it was lovely.
Book club - okay this I have never been a part of, but a few of my friends are and they really enjoy it. I tend to be very sporadic with my reading - sometimes I'll spend weeks and weeks reading every single night before bed, then for months I won't read a thing. I have a stack of books beside my bed that I like to get through before moving onto another stack and I really like to read what I want to read and not what is 'suggested' that I read as part of a group. But, I know many others who love this and love the discussion.
Running groups - okay, we all know that I'm not about to join one of these anytime soon, but again, I have friends who have and love it. It keeps them motivated and committed to running and they get to share this with others who have the same interest.
And if this isn't enough ideas for you, I have heard of a great on-line site where you can join groups that interest you. It's called Meet-Up and you can join or start groups in your area.
Ooh, and I have one little teaser for you. This week I'll be hosting a very special Ladies Night In at my house. Hint: It will co-incide with an event happening on the East Coast at the very same time with Dawn & Elizabeth of PartyBluprints.com, Beth Feldman and Chef Marcela Valladolid of Food Network. Details to follow, but here's the teaser.
Do you spend time with your girlfriends? What do you do together? Share some ideas in the comments section.
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I am a member of the Marine Officers' Spouses' Club for the area where I live. We regularly host events for the wives. Yesterday we hosted a picnic for the Marine Corps families. We had such a fantastic turn-out. We held it in a great space that has a large lawn area, a sand volleyball court and a large shaded area with Roman style columns.
We planned a lot of activities for the kids: 2 bounce houses, a ping pong table, arts & crafts station, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, balls, and we turned the sand volleyball court into a giant sandpit.
It was a potluck lunch, however we provided the sandwiches (giant subs) and beverages.
Here are a few photographs from the event:
The flags were made by printing sheets of mini flags with a 5mm gap between two flags and using an Elmer's glue stick to attach them around a lollipop stick.
I put together an arts and crafts area for the kids.
I dyed pasta in blue and red (the theme of the day) and yellow and red (the colors of the USMC flag). White rexlace was pre-cut and knotted at one end prior to the event to make it easier for little ones to start threading pasta immediately. For instructions on how to dye pasta see here.
I found various free coloring pages on the internet that were California, military and USMC themed. Crayons were put on the work table for the kids to use which were placed into jam jars and tied with red ric rac.
I used this tutorial from Martha Stewart to make the paper hats from regular poster board. I attached blue and red ribbons to the sides of each hat and put out various items for the kids to decorate them: feathers, pom poms, felt stickers, butterfly and heart gems, foam letters, streamers, markers, crayons and rub-ons. To stick the feathers, pom poms, streamers, and gems onto the hats I put out sheets of Glue Dots, which meant a lot less mess on the activity table - the Glue Dots were provided as part of Twittermoms Summer Bonding Campaign .
Tip: After searching at various locations for poster board Target came up the cheapest at only 39 cents a sheet as opposed to 89 cents or 99 cents, or even higher at other places.
Blank cards and matching envelopes were put on the table for the kids to decorate using any of the items provided (listed above for the hats).
Paper plates were turned upside down and the kids got creative and made faces on them either by attaching the dyed pasta or hand-drawing and then attaching streamers around the rim.
Yellow foam support ribbons were decorated with the various foam letters and pictures that were provided.
Don't the subs in the photograph above look amazing. They tasted even better. We purchased them from Campagno's Maket & Deli. And this was only half of them.
For our 'information and name tag table's I used salsa jars, filled them with sand and placed American and USMC flags in them and tied them with the same red ric rac as the crayon jars.
I loved these red and white checked table cloths too. I picked up bags and bags of them in the $1 section at Target ages ago to put in storage for an upcoming party I'm planning, but thought they would be perfect to give our tables a 'picnic' feel. They are wipe-clean, so perfect for me to re-use.
Here are a few photos of my little ones enjoying the event:
* Disclosure: “I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Glue Dots blogging contest to be eligible to receive a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”
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