I Should Start Baking Again

My mom’s birthday was recently, and I did something I haven’t done in a really long time. I baked. I used to bake all the time. It was a very soothing hobby. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pies, pastries, buttercream and fondant icing all made from scratch. I’ve baked one or two things in the past few years, but it’s been a few years since I really got down and dirty in the kitchen. At the height of my baking, I was baby-free and I worked part time, but I can’t really blame the baby or work for my lapse.

Baby Shower Goodies

The funny thing is that I worked at a bakery all through high school and a lot of college and never baked or decorated while I was there, but I did grow a bit of an aversion to cakes and cookies. That happens when your hair starts to smell like cookies and you dream of the holiday rush.

baking

Afterwards,  I spent to spend so much time perfecting recipes and piping icing, and I rarely ever ate any of it. Instead I’d find people to pawn my hobby off on. Eventually, though, everyone else started to become bored of cakes and cookies, and it all started to go to waste.

fly cake

I was looking at some older pictures and I realized I need to get back into the baking game, at least a little bit. I made so many cute things for everyone else, and now I have to make sure I can make something adorable for Jack. Plus, everyone has been deprived of baked goods for long enough. It’s time to re-introduced them.

Birthday Cakes

For my mom’s birthday I thought about baking a from scratch, I really did. But then I got into the kitchen and felt really “meh” about the whole thing. It wasn’t the same. I just didn’t feel like lugging out the mixer, and my mom doesn’t like sweet icing so it seemed like a waste to make butter cream. Instead, I jazzed up some box cake and made a cake and cookies. Super easy to do! For the cake, just replace water with orange juice (or whatever juice you like), add a splash of vanilla extract, and your cake is instantly flavored and more refreshing. I added a few raspberries to the batter before baking too.

Orange Raspberry Cake

The cookies are easy also. Add 2 eggs, 1/3 a cup of dried cranberries, 1/3 a cup of candied pecans, and 2 tbsp of orange juice to boxed cake mix. Scoop batter onto parchment lined trays and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Cake Box CookiesCake Box Cookies

I filled the cake with banana pudding and iced it with whipped topping. I didn’t get a chance to take a pic of the cake or cookies  because they were torn into pretty quickly, but I guess that’s a sign of how tasty they were. *Note to self, take pictures of everything before you go over mom’s!

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My Goonies Pirate Paaaaaarty

My birthday was a few weeks ago, and my niece turned 10 two days before my birthday, so I decided that I was going to revolt against being an “adult” and have a joint themed party with her. My favorite movie also happens to be 30 this year. When I say it’s my favorite movie, I mean I’m a little obsessed:

My Car

I went pirate crazy. I got hats, eye patches, paper goods, and toys for the kids to play with.  We served The Kraken’s Special (spaghetti and meatballs) with Sloth’s Salad (antipasto salad).

 The Kraken's Special

For dessert, there were Canon Balls (Oreo balls), Mermaid Pearls (White Sixlets), Fratelli Pops, Swashbuckler Cookies, The Flying Dutchman’s Delight (cheesecake), and One Eye-d Willie’s Rich Stuff (Devils Food Cake).

Rich Stuff Canon Balls and Mermaid Pearls Swashbuckler Cookies

I’m not sure why I bought so many table cloths (2 red, one black, and several Jolly Rogers), but I quickly realized I did not need them all.

I decorated the tables with “treasure” and used the red for our dinner table, black for the dessert table, and I hung the Jolly Rogers from my mom’s deck and we used it as a backdrop. The pictures were great!

Pirate Party Pirate's Life for Me IMG_8178

I like to think this was a practice run for when Jack get’s older and asks for a pirate party. Because of course he’s going to want a pirate party. I already decided that this will be his toddler bed.

Little Tikes Pirate Ship Toddler Bed - Little Tikes - Babies"R"Us

After diner, there were sword battles, face painting, treasure hunts, and presents.

Everybody's a Pirate

IMG_8269 Face Painting

Sword Fighting

Sword Fighting

Birthday Ladies

Olivia loved her vanity set and I was treated to a Patrick Kane Team USA shirt. We all know I love the New York Rangers, but my favorite hockey player isn’t actually on the Rangers. Why? This is why. I happen to really wish that Patrick Kane would decide that he loves New York and would get traded to my team. I don’t see that happening (the Blackhawks would be fools) so instead I root for Kane only once every 4 years, during the Olympics.

The “grown up” portion of my birthday was celebrated with surprise tickets to see one of my favorite writers, David Sedaris. It was the first time since we had Jack that we went on a real date. It was a very strange feeling. I kept wondering what he was doing (as if a baby does much), but it was nice to spend time with Matt and share with him something I enjoy so much. David Sedaris can have a whole audience in stitches, on the brink of tears, and back to laughter in under a minute. It’s a talent that I’m so happy he didn’t just save for his own inner circle. I know that I’ve looked like a schizophrenic person reading his books in public. So if you haven’t yet, read yourself some Me Talk Pretty One Day or my favorite, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

LETS EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS

Jack’s Christening

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Since going back to work, I really have been working for the weekend. I always thought I was busy all week, until I had someone else to care for everyday. I can’t imagine how people with more than one child do it, let alone people with twins! We christened Jack 2 weeks ago, and I figured that I did a lot of baking and crafting for all my nieces’ and nephew’s parties, I should at least make some favors for my own baby’s party. In order to do any of it I had my nieces come over and entertain him. (Something I never thought about needing to do before). The girls were great. Jack loves them. They played and danced with him while I filled chocolate molds and baked and decorated cookies.

Jack and Nancy_Christening

Our family’s tradition is to have the baby’s godmother bathe and dress the baby before church, so Nancy came over and immediately started yelling at me and Matt because we weren’t ready either. I’m no fool. If she was going to get the baby ready that meant I’d have more time for myself. 🙂

Christening_1

At our church, they christen several babies at once. Jack was the loudest baby there. He DID NOT like being so hot in his outfit, or the fact that his bottle wasn’t warm enough the whole time. Surprisingly, he didn’t cry at all when he was being baptized. He loves baths, and I think he was expecting to be allowed to jump into the water. It was a lovely ceremony and my niece was picked to help the Deccan.  We were so happy to celebrate afterwards.

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For his party I wanted a lamb theme. It was so close to Easter, so there was a lot of lamb baby things around, and it’s a nice, neutral baptism theme. The girls were able to help me make the centerpiece for the favors (apothecary jar filled with yarn balls), and they made the centerpieces for everyone’s dining tables. These cute lambs doubled as a kid craft and a party piece. The girls were entertained and knew they helped with the party. A win-win!

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For favors, everyone helped themselves to a variety of treats. I Made lots of chocolate crosses and a tall jar of white and blue sprees and whoppers for people’s treat bags, and I made 3 different kinds of cookies. I decorated chocolate covered Oreos with a blue chocolate cross. The lamb cookies were basic cream cheese cookies iced white (royal icing) with some white edible pearls. I added cinnamon, nutmeg, and some black pepper (just a touch)to the cream cheese dough to make the cross cookies.  I decorated them with royal icing and a lamb chocolate mold.

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The non-edible favor was tiny finger rosaries. They were so sweet! Instead of a cross, they have an angel. I twice the amount needed so everyone could take more than one (which everyone did). I put a set on my car’s emergency brake for luck. I ordered them from this Etsy shop. I love them!

It was Also Angelina’s Birthday. She’s 14!!!!!!!!! I can’t believe how time flies!!IMG_7710

Cape May and Fairy Gardens

I’m kind of sad that summer is unofficial lye over, but I can’t complain. I’ve spent the last few weekends of summer happily. A few weeks ago, Matt and I decided to go on a mini road trip down memory lane to our old Stockton stomping grounds. Normally our trips to our old college town would take us to the winery, but since only one of us can enjoy the wine, we ventured down to a Chinese take-out place we often went to through college. They have the best sweet and sour chicken ever. We continued south to Cape May where we explored the shops (where i found a lot less antiques than I expected, but some great craft ideas), walked the boardwalk, and enjoyed an indirect flashback to our alma mater again. Despite a few holes in one, I fell apart and panicked at the end of our game, and Matt beat me by 5 points.

a lovely time

Even though I lost, Matt still treated me to a beautiful had beaded bracelet in my favorite color. I can’t even tell you the shop he bought it from because there was no sign on the building.  We had dinner at an Irish pub where I, of course, ordered the butter lobster rolls, and stopped for smoothie desserts.

 Making the cake!

We also celebrated my niece Laila’s birthday. The night before the party, the kids all came over to watch the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (which they loved) and help bake Laila’s tie-dyed  cake and cookies. Everyone was in charge of mixing and poring a color.

Laila's Frozen Cake

 

They turned out great!I decorated the cake for a Frozen theme party with blue frosting and white snowflakes.

Happy Birthday Laila! Laila & Olivia, or Ana & Elsa

To add to the birthday festivities, we made a fairy garden in a hollowed out tree stump.

Fairy Veggie Garden Fairy table

We used a fairy garden kid along with a few mini items I found at Michael’s.

Adding to the fairy garden All the kids helped

I glued floral pins to the bottoms of everything to stake them into the ground.

Welcome Fairies!

The only thing left to do is plant some pretty fall flowers. with a hideaway like this, fairies are bound to make this their new home!

Fairy Garden!

 

Irish Potato Candies: Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Today my mom is making some corned beef and cabbage and I made some Irish potato candies for dessert. They aren’t actual potatoes, but cream cheese and coconut candies rolled in cinnamon to look like tiny potatoes just dug up from the ground.

Irish Potatoes

Irish potato candies are super-fast and easy festive candies to make for the holiday. Just cream together a stick of butter, half a package of cream cheese, and 1-2tsp of vanilla. (you can also use whiskey instead of vanilla).Blend together 4 cups of powdered sugar. It’s easier if you blend it 2 cups at a time.

Almost finished

Use whiskey instead of vanilla to make more sophisticated candies

Mix in 2.5 cups of shredded coconut.

Ready to shape

Some people like larger potato candies, but I like to make mine bite sized. Spray your hands with some Pam and use your hands to mold the potatoes into an oblong, potato shape.

Rolling assembly line

Roll the potatoes in cinnamon to coat. If you like, you can add a bit of cocoa powder to the cinnamon for a more “dirt” look and for the cocoa flavor.

Roll in cinnamon

Line the “potatoes” on a baking sheet and chill until their firm. I put the candies in mini muffin cups before serving. Yum!

Just chill and eat!

I also did some last second decorating today. Last year, in early March, I barged into work very aggravated telling Meghan, “Apparently you can’t buy a cauldron after Halloween.”  To which she replied, “You know I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I have been trying to find a plastic cauldron to fill with chocolate coins for St. Patrick’s Day for a long time. Even this past Halloween I looked for some, but they all had pumpkins or Halloween writing on them. I finally found some online and ordered a few, and they just came in today. I guess one day of display is better than none. Of course, I didn’t have any chocolate coins, so I used my clovers instead and plastic coins for the small pots. I’m thinking next year I can put the pots on some cotton and have a rainbow display too.

I finally found my cauldrons!

We’re using St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate 2 birthdays. Yesterday we celebrated my Mama’s 83rd birthday. Some of her grand-kids will be away on her actual birthday, so we decided to celebrate early.

Mama's girls

She’s our Queen Bee, but the kids wanted her to be a princess for the day. We made her wear a princess crown and all!

Happy Birthday Mama!

Tonight we’re celebrating Matt’s birthday. His birthday is really tomorrow, but he’ll be celebrating by doing what he loves best, and what made me fall in love with him to begin with, playing hockey. He didn’t want to have a cake or celebrate, but that’s just silly. He’s almost finished with his docorate and has been working such long hours finishing things up. He deserves a little celebrating from us all. 🙂

Birthdays and Weight Cake

Last weekend we celebrated Dad’s birthday, and after weeks of keeping quiet we celebrated my brother-in-law’s surprise 40th birthday.

Nancy was able to plan the surprise party without Ben having any idea. She themed the party “Fit and Forty,” and we designed invitations and favor labels to match.

For centerpieces, Nancy used foam circles and paper towel tubes, hot glues them, and painted them to look like dumbbells. Even the cake was in theme. It was actually very simple to make.

We used 2 paper towel rolls as the bar and baked a 6 inch, 12 inch, and two 8 inch round cakes as the weights. We cut the cakes in half and placed them but side down on opposite ends of the cake board. We iced the cake and the tube with fondant* and colored it with Wilton spray food coloring.** We sprayed the bar first, then once it was dried, we covered the bar with a towel and sprayed the cake with black food coloring.

*You can’t ice a cake with only fondant. In order for the fondant to “stick,” and for a smooth look, you need a layer of regular icing over your cake.

**Certain colors, like black, red, and metallic colors, are much easier as sprayed on than actually dying the icing. The sprays smell kind of strange at first, but once they dry, the smell is gone and they are pretty tasteless.

We had extra  fondant and silver coloring, so we made tiny toppers for cupcakes. We used stirrer straws as tiny bars, and small fondant balls as the weights.

The cake and cupcakes came out great, and the party was fantastic. Ben was genuinely surprised, and we had a great time. A weekend of good food, family, and friends. I was wonderful!

Aside

Labor Day Luau Cake

It’s only Wednesday, and I’m already missing my Labor day off. The long weekend was both fun and restful, with boat rides, BBQs and pool time. My Aunt Roe had a BBQ on Sunday for the holiday, and I was in charge of bringing a dessert. My cousin Cretia gave me the idea to make a hula dancer cake, and I’ve been itching to have a reason to make it for weeks now! I decided she was a good cake for our end of summer Labor Day celebrations.

Her directions were to use an 8” square cake, a 9” round cake, and a 9”x13” rectangle cake. Making those sizes would require about 2 boxes of cake mix (1 box for the large rectangle, another for the square and circle). I did not have those size pans, so I improvised. I used 6” square, 8” square, and 5” round pans and only 1 box cake mix.  (I think as long as you have a variety of pan sizes, you could bend the rules a bit and make the design work with any size pans).

Use what you've got!

After the cakes are cooled, use a serrated knife to cut the body shapes out of the square cakes. I found it easier to place the cakes in a line and cut out an hourglass shape. 

Make her curvy :)

Then, use the leftover triangles for the arms and legs and assemble the body. I trimmed some of the cake to make her look less angular.The left arm isn't trimmed yet in this pic, but I trimmed off the corners.

Now time to frost! Frosting this cake is the hardest part, especially around the edges where you’ve cut. Use flesh colored food coloring from Wilton. You can get them at Michael’s or A.C. Moore. As you can see, some dope in my house mixed the caps up on my food coloring, so my hula dancer came out looking like she had a really bad, Velveeta cheese, spray tan experience. (For the record, I am that dope).

She made me crave Mac & Cheese after this…but I’m still dieting!

I let my nieces take over from here with the decorating. We cut strips of blue and yellow Fruit Roll-Ups and twirled them for the skirt, and used strips of orange and red roll-ups for her hair and Froot Loops for her eyes. Jenna even though to put one eye “a little under her hair so it’s like her hair is in her eyes.”Time to decorate!

Her coconut bra is made of thin mints and Twizzlers, and some slivered almonds were scattered throughout her skirt and used to make a bracelet. Her nose is the tip of a marshmallow ice cream candy, and we had her hold the rest of the candy.

The artists

This was such a fun cake for me and the kids, and at the end of our BBQ, she was eaten all up! Our cake came out cute, Cretia’s came out even cuter! Thanks Crea!

My mom, the Leo

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I don’t live and die by the zodiac signs, but I do find it very interesting when they are accurate. My Mom’s birthday was this past Sunday, and she is a Leo in every sense.

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There is no one as straightforward and frank as my mom. You never EVER have to wonder what she’s thinking. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes I have to shush her. She’s also one of the most impatient people I know. When she asks for something, she means right that second, stop what you’re doing, and do it. I’ve read that this impatience in Leo’s also leads to unnecessary anxiety. Combine that anxiety with a Leo’s headstrong nature, and you can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like convincing her that she’s overreacting. 

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But my mom (and other Leo’s) faults are fair enough trade-offs. Leo’s are also energetic (this might be an understatement in her case. She’s always the life of the party), loyal (Once you’re my mom’s friend, you’re ALWAYS her friend.), and kind hearted (as gruff and straight forward as my mom can be, she has a huge heart). She rarely, if ever, puts herself first. For example, every year she takes all 6 of her grandkids down to Florida so they can see Disney. Every year. My mom, my dad, and 6 kids. This includes last year, when our whole family and my brothers-in-law’s family went down (my sisters married brothers, for those of you who didn’t know), and this was right after her knee replacement! The Dr told her to be careful and cancel, but the headstrong Leo she is told the Dr she was fine.

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She doesn’t think it’d be fair to stop going because the younger ones wouldn’t visit as often as the older ones, and she would never leave the older ones behind either. She could take her time off to go to an island or on a cruise, but she spends her vacation time with the grand kids at Disney. The 2 boys in the pic below are not her grandkids, but by the end of the trip, she was known as Grandma Sandy to them!

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Even on her actual birthday she will plan around the kids. She’ll ask for us to make a dinner she knows everyone else likes. Usually she asks me to make a Mickey Mouse cake or some other kid-themed desert to make the kids happy. This year, my sister Maria actually took a page from my book and got crafty with the kids and made these desserts. Our cousin Sue suggested I make Despicable Me cupcakes. The minions are made of Twinkies. (Wooohooo they’re back!) Aren’t they adorable? 

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Happy Birthday Mom! I love you forever, I like you for always 😉

Ode to Dad’s Mustache

Happy Father’s Day weekend, and happy first blog post to me! I decided to start blogging as a reason to write. I’m a marketer by day, a professor by night, and a janitor on the weekends. so, like anything else in my life, if I don’t have an obligation to something it won’t get done. I may not have followers or fans, but the existence of a blog is enough of an obligation for me. And so we begin.

For as long as I remember, my Father has had a mustache. I don’t think I’ve even seen a photo of my dad without one, so I’m pretty sure once he started growing facial hair, he never shaved his upper lip.

My dad’s a pretty modest man, a t-shirt and jeans type of guy who has his wife pick out “nice” clothes for him, so when Dad’s black hair started to speckle with some white and grey a few years ago, he thought it best to embrace his new, sophisticated look.  However, the speckling was much more apparent in his mustache hair than my mom would have liked.

I’m not exactly sure how she managed to do it, but my mother convinced my dad that he was too young to go grey, and he should dye his mustache black. Now, a person’s naturally black hair is different than black hair from a bottle. Instantly, my dad went from regular guy to looking like Nintendo’s Mario. Needless to say, my father hated it, and for the first time in 30 years, he shaved his mustache. The resulting uproar forced my father to never shave off his mustache again and my mother to never attempt to dye it.

Every year for Father’s Day, my parents host a barbeque at their house, and for every even I try to make something fun. Thanks to my eldest niece, Angelina, I had the idea to honor my dad’s mustache by making cookies with my Munchstache Cookie Cutters by Fred and Friends. The set comes with 5 different styles of mustache cutters which double as design stampers.

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My roll out cookie recipe is pretty easy.

You need:
a stick of butter
half a package of cream cheese (about 4 oz)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour

First cream together the butter, sugar, and  cream cheese. I cut up my butter and cream cheese to make it easier.

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When the mixture starts to look fluffy, add the egg and vanilla extract and mix again.

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Mix in the flour and baking powder to make a dough.  You will want to chill the dough for about an hour so it is easier to roll out. Roll out the dough, cut out your shapes, and set up your cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Because these were costume cookies, I added a stick to them by wetting the back of the cookie and adding some of the dough to hold the stick in place.

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Bake the cookies at 375° for 8-10 minutes and enjoy. Because the cookies were stamped, I didn’t ice them, but I may make some different flavor cookies next time to show different hair colors.

The cookies were an adorable hit. All the grand-kids honored their Pop Pop by having ‘staches just like his.

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Texas Craft House

blood, sweat, and glitter y'all