Tuesday, January 29, 2013

That's The Way The Cookie, er Cake, Crumbles

It's been awhile since I've posted about my kitchen mishaps.  Thankfully there haven't been that many to speak of, but a couple weeks ago I had a good one!  Two weekends ago we had Liam's 2nd 1st birthday party.  Did you follow that?  Liam had another 1st birthday party; this time we celebrated with Will's side of the family .  He was able to share the party with his sweet cousin who turned 6 years old.  Since his cousin had a Rapunzel themed cake and since there was around 14 of us (I think) we decided another cake was needed.

My sister-in-law had some cute animals with letters of the alphabet on them that came with the present she got Liam so she pulled out the L, I, A, and M for me to use if I wanted.  I decided to make a small, square, two layer cake with "grass" and a cute little graham cracker crumb path for the animals.  And of course sprinkles, lots and lots of sprinkles.

Recently on Pinterest I found a method of getting cakes to bake evenly and with a flat top.  The tutorial I used can be found here.  This was a major game changer for me and made me much more interested in making layer cakes.  It  really couldn't be easier either!  You just cut a strip off an old kitchen towel as wide as your baking pan is tall, get it wet with cold water, wring it out so that it's still fairly wet, but not dripping, drape it around your pan and secure it with a safety pin:

When I started this cake project I was super excited to use this method again.  I was so excited, in fact, that I forgot to grease my pan.  I remembered about half way through the baking time and knew it wasn't going to be pretty.   I was right:

Sigh...  I felt a little better in that I had used a cake mix leftover from cake pops that I hadn't used.  If I would have made this from scratch I probably would have been pretty upset with myself.  It also helped that I had another mix in the basement.  Originally I was only going to do 2 layers but I decided I would do 3 since I ended up having one intact layer from the first cake mix and would have 2 from the second mix. 

I set about making the second layer from the first mix and made sure I greased the pan.  I was quite pleased with the results:

I grabbed the second cake mix and got to work.  Since I only have one pan for baking layer cakes I tend to get a little impatient at times.  This would be one of those times.  Apparently I didn't let the cake cool long enough because as I turned the pan upside down onto a cooling rack to await placement on the unfrosted first layer it fell apart:

Sigh again....  At this point I was seriously considering throwing in the towel, going to Meijer, and buying a cake.  But, I still had that last layer to bake so I decided to give it a go.  I greased the pan, channeling Paula Deen in the process, and baked the cake.  I gave it ample opportunity to cool.  While I was patiently waiting I whipped up a batch of Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting.  You can find the recipe here.  With the exception of my friend Leanna's similar buttercream recipe (she couldn't remember the exact measurements so I found a similar one online) this is one of the easiest, and most tasty frostings I've tried. 

Once I was sure the cake was cooled and I had frosted the first layer I popped the second layer out the pan and slapped that puppy on top.  Not really...  I oh-so-gently placed the second layer on top of the first layer and proceeded to do a crumb coat on the cake.  If you ever wanted to know how to properly frost a layer cake I found this amazing tutorial that is very detailed, but very easy to follow!

So here's my little cake with the crumb coat:

I am happy to report that no crumbs made it through to the final coat of frosting!!  I should say that I cannot be absolutely certain regarding the accuracy of that statement since the side of the cake is covered in sprinkles and the top has "grass" piped on...

And here's the cake with the animals on top:

And here's the adorable Rapunzel cake my talented sister-in-law made (she even made her own marshmallow fondant, which was quite tasty!):

And here's the aftermath:

And here's one of the Birthday Boy opening up his present from Grandmama and Grandpapa:
Needless to say, though the cake caused me several headaches it was worth it (and tasty too!).   Next up in my food related postings will be a tutorial on how to make the Tangled/Rapunzel Tower Cake Pops seen in the background of the picture above!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shocking Indeed!

So yesterday I was wearing this pretty scarf:

I recently took a liking to wearing scarves.  I'm know I'm a little late to the scarf-wearing party, but ya know, that's just how I am when it comes to fashion :-)  Better late than never right?   But I digress...

So I was wearing the scarf!  During the day I had been doing lots of laundry, some of which included the blankets Liam sleeps with at night.  There was a soft, cuddly afghan, and a cozy argyle fleece blanket.  I happened to wash and dry them with one the blankets from our bed which is a big warm microfleece blanket.  Needless to say when I pulled them out of the dryer there was a whole lot of static cling going on.  

I took the bundle of blankets up to Liam's room where I was going to pull them apart.  I put them on the rocker and started by pulling the afghan out of the pile.  When my arm brushed against my scarf I felt a little tingly electric shock.  I was a little surprised but kept pulling.  The more I pulled the more static noises I heard.  Suddenly I felt little shocks and tingles running around my neck.  It was like tiny little pricks of heat zapping every part of my neck at once.  I threw the blanket down and pulled off my scarf.  I immediately knew what the problem was.  You see there are little, shiny metallic threads running all through my scarf and they were conducting the electricity around my scarf and zapping me in the process!  It was the strangest feeling and one I hope not to repeat anytime in the near future!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

55 Million

My heart is breaking today, as it does many other days, when I think of the huge number of lives affected by the decision in Roe v. Wade that was made by the Supreme Court of the United States 40 years ago today.  Let's take a look at the numbers for a minute:  

  • 52-55 Million: Most abortion statistics have the number of aborted babies sitting between 52 and 55 million.  That's the population of the state of Michigan 5.5 times over.  That's the population of New York City almost 7 times over.  That's the population of the state of California almost 1.5 times over.   That's almost 20% of the current population of the United States of America.  55 million sweet, innocent, wee little babies who were not given the opportunity to taste life outside the womb and are now in Heaven.
  • 40-45 Million:  Most abortion statistics, including those from the Guttmacher Institute which studies reproductive health, indicate that approximately 40% of American women have had 1 or more abortions.  That's roughly between 40 and 45 million women who have been affected directly by abortion.
  • 40-45 Million:  Assuming that every father of the baby was informed that his significant other was going to have an abortion (which isn't likely) that's a large amount of men who are also affected by abortion
  • 200 Million: This is the approximate number of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings who never got to meet their little relative, or potentially never even knew that the abortion occurred.
It's so easy for people to claim that abortion affects only the woman who had the abortion (and only in a minor way for the women at that), but when you look at the numbers it's plain to see that is not the case.  

I don't care to start an argument or condemn, I just want people to think on that number, 55 million.  That's huge and so very very sad, especially considering that Jane Roe has since come to the realization that her worth is found in God, not man, and that abortion is not the answer.  I pray that as a society we would return to our understanding of the value of children.  

I believe, ironically enough, that President Obama said it best recently, following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary:

"This is our first task — caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we're doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we're all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change...

...We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try...

...That's what we can be sure of. And that's what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That's how you've inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that's what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

"Let the little children come to me," Jesus said, "and do not hinder them — for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." "

If you're interested in learning more about this topic from a Christians perspective I would encourage you to check out Abby Johnson's book, "unPLANNED".  Abby is the former director of a Planned Parenthood Clinic and this book details her amazing transition from being pro-choice, to pro-life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Homemade (ish) Drawer Fresheners

I wasn't really sure what to call these things.  They aren't really DIY because you don't really have to "do" anything, but they aren't really homemade either, because you don't have make anything, so I settled on "Homemade (ish)"  :-)

I wish I could link up to where I found this idea because it's a great one, but it was about 6 years ago in a magazine and my magazine keeping limit is 5 years.  You think I'm kidding, ha.  Well ok it used to be 5 years, but now that I have a lot more stuff in my house I just don't seem to have the space to keep a magazine for one small idea.  PLUS the world now has Pinterest and I can usually find an idea online that is equivalent to the one from the magazine and store it on Pinterest.  If Pinterest ever dies I will be missing loads of great ideas, not to mention my validation of self worth, aka my Conquered Pins! board ;-)

Alright, back to my drawer fresheners!  Ok guys, this one is so easy you're probably going to want to smack your forehead and say, "Why didn't I think of that?"!  No?  That was just me?  Alright, if you say so...

To make these drawer fresheners you only need one thing and I can almost guarantee that you already have it in your house (unless you really need to go to the store and/or you haven't bathed in a while) and that one thing is: a soap box!  I don't mean that kind that you stand on and get all huffy about a cause you believe in.  I mean an honest to goodness box that came with a bar of soap:

Around these parts we use Irish Spring. Well Will does, I'm more of a body wash type of girl, but more about that later.  When I buy soap I typically buy several packages because I like to stock up when it's on sale.  I remove all the bars of soap and undo each end of the box and flatten it.  Then I stick the flattened boxes in various clothing drawers.  I don't know about you but I love the smell of certain kinds of soap and putting these in the drawers so that my guys clothes carry just a hint of the soap makes me happy!  Since I typically use body spray I don't do this in my drawers, but it would be just as easy to get a "girly" smelling soap box and do the same for your little ladies (or yourself)!

I know what you're thinking, you're wondering, "What in the world does she do with all the soap once she takes it out of the boxes"?  Well I picked up a nice Anchor Hocking jar and did this:

It adds a little pop of color in our bathroom and makes it smell nice too!  The repressed OCD person inside me wishes the soaps were of a similar neutral color theme as the bathroom, but I just keep her quiet with chocolate :-)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bathroom Break City

**Please note that I have removed the names of the children involved for their protection from embarrassment**

At our church Will and I teach the Children's Church class during the morning service.  We're on a 3 month rotation with another couple and we enjoy it.  Sometimes the kids are noisy and raucous and sometimes they listen closely and you feel like you're actually helping them understand things about God and the Bible.   And sometimes, well sometimes they are blunt.

Many of you saw my post on Facebook last week where the kids in Children's Church issued me a challenge to not wear a certain blue dress at church until March.  They said I wear it EVERY WEEK (not true, by the way, though I do love that dress!) and that I shouldn't wear it again for a long time.  I took their challenge and so far I'm doing good. 

Today it seemed like every single one of the kids had to go use the bathroom at some point during our time in Children's Church.  Typically we only let one kid go out at a time so as to prevent mischievousness in the bathroom or down the hall or with the drinking fountain, you get the idea.  Today there was a line of kids who had already requested to go when another kid approached me saying they needed to go.  I always ask if they can wait to gauge the seriousness of the request (I don't want any accidents on our cloth covered chairs) and this one, who is generally not given to exaggerating, said they needed to go really bad.  I decided, against my better judgement, to let this one go with another who was waiting for the return of yet another little kiddo.  Seriously, it seemed like the kids must have been sucking water down like camels!

We were right in the middle of taking prayer requests when the devious looking duo left.  Will noticed that they had been taking a long time so he went out to intercept them to make sure they didn't come in noisily while I was praying.  He also wanted to make sure that they weren't "up to no good".  Sure enough as they exited the bathroom they were laughing and giggling and generally being loud, though they hadn't caused any mischief (that we know of).  He told them that I was already praying so they needed to be quiet when they returned, to which one of them excitedly exclaimed , "We both had to go number 2!".  Apparently they were in awe of the odds that they both had to do that at the same time...

Ahhh yes, one of the many delights we experience in Children's Church includes learning about the bowel habits of our various children.  Sometimes my joy cannot be contained.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Little Man

I would just like to point out that so far I have kept my New Years resolution! It's been less than a week since I last posted so I think I deserve some sort of prize for that.  Maybe some chocolate, hmmm...  Anyway, on to more thoughtful matters!

One year ago today my husband and I were shocked, delighted, and amazed to welcome our little Liam into the world.  He surprised us all by getting to the party about 2 1/2 weeks early but we wouldn't have had it any other way!  Yesterday I took a few minutes to read my blog post about Liam's birth, as well as some other thoughts I had written down but didn't post.  I was amazed at how many details I had already forgotten about that day, and the events leading up to Liam's birth. 

There were little things like almost throwing up on the security guard when we pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance at the hospital and big things like having contractions at church while accompanying Will's cello solo on the piano (but not knowing what they were).  And then there was the time when Will locked his keys in the car at McDonalds when he ran out to get some breakfast for himself a few hours after Liam was born.  After a year's worth of retrospection they all make me smile. 

I also remember calling my mom, who was already at work, with the news.  She didn't believe me!  I can't say that I really blame her, since a) I had faked her out once before saying I was having contractions, and b) my due date was still a little ways away.  I remember the excitement I felt as I sent out a text message and picture to surprised family, friends, and co-workers.  Especially co-workers since my last day had only been 48 hours before (talk about cutting it close)!

I also remember the fear in the realization that I was losing a lot of blood rather quickly.  And I remember that I absolutely ached to hold my precious little man in my arms when it wasn't possible because my body was so exhausted from the delivery and loss of so much blood.

Easily blotting out the pain and fear though, was remembering the glorious moment when I first laid eyes on Liam and then when I was finally able to hold him for the first time.  Such love I have never before felt and it seemed like I better understood the love of God for me and for His son.

This past year has positively flown by, and I seem to have little idea where it's gone and why it went so fast but I do know that I have cherished each moment that I've been able to spend with my darling little man.  So much has changed since that day we brought him home, but I know that it has changed for the better! And here are some of my favorites from the past year: