Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's, Shmalentine's

This is an insane week for me.  I had to make lots of lists in order to figure out how to get everything done.  And a list to organize the lists.  Here's a brief overview of my tasks this week:
  • Make valentines for Griffin's class that reflect his love for Minecraft but also take into consideration the kids who have never played it and wouldn't get some of the references (and no, there are no Minecraft valentines available for purchase, which would have been my first choice)
  • Make valentines for Nolan's class that reflect his goofy 8-year-old-ness and also consider his own dietary restrictions
  • Make/buy valentines for Nora's preschool class (party Friday)
  • Make/buy valentines for Nora's dance class (party Thursday)
  • Come up with a craft for Nora's preschool class party and purchase and prep all supplies
  • Help run Nora's preschool party on Friday
  • Make a valentines box or bag for Nolan (the other two kids made theirs at school)
  • Make 24 cupcakes for my mother-in-law's workplace's (Red Cross) annual cupcake competition on Thursday
  • Make 24 cupcakes for my husband's workplace's bake-off on Friday
  • Make 50 cupcakes for a Valentine's dinner Friday night, ordered by someone from church
Let's not forget that I also had to provide my family with clean clothes, a few meals a day, and at least a clean path to walk through the house.  A shower now and then would be great.  Sleep just ain't happenin'.

So here's what I came up with.

We decided to go with a non-candy option for Nolan, and he loved the yoyo valentines from Uncommon Designs.

We printed the free printable valentines on cardstock and cut them apart.  Nolan wrote the "to" and "from" on the back of each valentine.  I let Nolan choose from the yoyo selection on Amazon, and he chose hamburgers because that's goofy enough for Nolan.  We used removable glue dots to stick the yoyos to the cards.

Griffin wanted Minecraft valentines, and many of them have cute puns, but I just didn't think every kid would get them.  So we were both happy with the free printable Minecraft valentines from LinnieP.

We printed the valentine cards on cardstock and cut them apart.  Griffin wrote the names on the cards (I wish they had a "To:" spot on them).  I printed the TNT strips on regular printer paper, and Jared and I cut them all apart and wrapped them around Hershey Nuggets and taped the backs.  We used removable glue dots to stick the covered chocolates to the cards.

By the time I got to turn my attention to poor little Nora, I was out of steam.  Plus she needed 17 valentines for her dance class and 17 for her preschool class, so I wanted to keep it cheap and easy.  I let her choose from various Valentine's Day candies available at Walmart, and she zeroed in on Ring Pops.

I thought I was making my life so easy by just purchasing two boxes of pre-packaged candies and having Nora write her name in the "from" spot.  What I didn't realize was how DIFFICULT it is to write on a Ring Pop package.

In case you're wondering, all of the kids' teachers got the exact same thing as the students.  I don't have time, energy, or money to put into special teacher gifts for Valentine's Day.

Not only is this Valentine's week, but it's also cupcake week.

Every year (for the last few years) I make cupcakes for my mother-in-law to take to her office cupcake contest.  The contest always falls on or around Valentine's Day.  Prizes are awarded for Best Tasting, Best Looking, and Most Creative.  The last two years I've won for Most Creative.

My 2014 entry:  Snow Cone Cupcakes
My 2013 entry:  Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
This year I didn't feel like I had the time to make something really creative that would require lots of time spent on decorating.  So I decided to go for flavor this time.

A little time on Pinterest and baking blogs gave me the direction I wanted to go.  I ultimately made French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Crumbled Bacon Sprinkles.

This is a pretty popular combination for cupcakes on the interweb these days.  I spent lots of time reading everyone else's recipes to figure out how I wanted to make mine.

I followed the recipe on Bakingdom for Streusel Topped French Toast Cupcakes, with a few minor tweaks.

I made the frosting  that went with that cupcake recipe, but I wasn't wowed.  I read lots of other frosting recipes, but none of them seemed like what I wanted.  So I made up my own recipe starting with my favorite basic recipe (it uses part butter and part Crisco) and adding pure maple syrup, a little dark brown sugar, and maple extract.

I wanted to put a little something special on top of the cupcakes.  I cooked some bacon in the microwave to make it nice and crispy.

I crumbled the bacon with my fingers and sprinkled it over the cupcakes.

Who needs sprinkles when you've got bacon?

I topped each cupcake with a single piece of French Toast Crunch cereal (it's right next to Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the grocery store).

After all the work to perfect these cupcakes, I thought it best to just make the exact same cupcakes for the bake-off at Jared's office.

Curious how my cupcakes fared?

Well I won a big fat nuttin' at the Red Cross competition. 

I tied for first at Jared's work competition.  They called in another judge for the tie-breaker, and she chose the other cupcakes over mine.  Jared tried to make me feel better by saying the last judge was a chocolate-lover and the other cupcakes were chocolate.


Good sportsmanship.  Yay for the other guy.  It's a good fundraiser for the company.  Blah blah blah.

The next item I tackled was the craft for Nora's preschool class party.  A friend helped me brainstorm after I spent countless hours on Pinterest.  The main challenge was that I didn't want to use paint or glue that would need dry time since the kids were going to make the craft and then take it right home.

We finally came up with the idea to have the kids make necklaces out of foam hearts decorated with markers, peel-and-stick foam stickers, and beads on the necklace strings.

This was my example to show the kids:

I bought foam sheets and traced and cut out the hearts.  I also punched a hole in each heart.

I bought several packages of foam stickers and dumped them all into a gallon zipper bag.  There were Valentine colors, basic colors, glitter hearts, animal prints, and a few extras.

I bought a container of beads and dumped those into a quart size zipper bag for easy clean up.  I let each kid choose 4 of these to go on each necklace.

I also picked up a kit from the VBS section at Hobby Lobby.  The kit was designed to make beaded cross necklaces.  Since it was technically in the "Summer" department, it was on sale!  The kit had more than enough black string, plastic red heart beads, and colored plastic beads.  I just mixed the colored beads in with the others I bought.

The craft went really well.  The kids got to choose the color of their foam heart, how to decorate the heart, the color of their beads, and where the beads went on their necklace.  I originally wanted every kid's heart to say "I am loved" because I thought that was an important message.  However, they each wanted to write their own message.  I had to let that go and let them do it their own way. 

The kids' necklaces were super cute.  Some proudly wore them and some were excited to give them to their moms.  I'd say the Valentine's Day party overall was very successful!

I really didn't have time or energy to help Nolan make a really cool box for his valentines.  I did, however, find his valentine box from last year.  He decided just to add more decorations to it and use it again.  Score!

Maybe this is a good time to insert the fact that Nora and I both came down with a stomach bug in the midst of all this craziness.  It was the worst on Thursday.  By Friday, she was about 90% better and I was about 78% better, so we pushed through to accomplish everything we needed to.

The last Valentine's Day item I have to present to you is the last batch of cupcakes.

Our church has a group called Prime Timers.  It's all the active, social senior citizens.  They planned a big Valentine's Day dinner for Friday night, and the woman in charge of planning it called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me to make cupcakes for the dinner.

She requested 50 cupcakes, half white cake with vanilla frosting and half chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  She asked me to simply top them with store-bought candies.

All cupcakes were baked in Valentine's Day cupcake liners.  I bought SweetTarts hearts for the vanilla cupcakes and cookies & cream hearts for the chocolate cupcakes.  I didn't think chocolate hearts would be visible on the chocolate frosting.

Ok, well now I have to go deliver these cupcakes to officially wrap up my Valentine's week.  I already told Jared my Valentine's gift to him is that I will try to survive this week and live to celebrate another Valentine's Day.  We will have a date tomorrow (on actual Valentine's Day), but Nolan also has a basketball game tomorrow morning and we are all going to a friend's birthday party at an ice skating rink in the afternoon.

Tonight Nolan will be spending the night at a friend's house for the first time.  While he's gone, I have to read and prepare my Sunday School lesson for this Sunday.  And maybe I should try to eat something at some point.

The fun never ends.

Happy Valentine's Day!


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