Monday, March 29, 2010

Original Cupcake Artwork by Miss M

Remember way back in SEPTEMBER when I talked about pulling off the kitchen wallpaper and painting? Well, the painting has been done for some time now but I kept putting off hanging anything up on the wall because I just wasn't sure what I wanted.

Thanks to a birthday gift from my SIL, I was inspired to go with some black accents, with a few cupcakes for color. I commissioned an original piece of art from Miss M. My mom, Cupcake Nana, helped a wee bit but Miss M did a lot of the work herself!
Indulge me for one more second...Miss M learned today that a sample of her original writing will be published in the district literary magazine.
More kitchen update pictures coming soon!

Giraffe & Ostrich Gone WILD!!

Miss M had a 1/2 day on Friday and Daddy was off early, so the family headed to the zoo in our city. A favorite stop is always the giraffes. We were excited to see how much the baby had grown since our last visit in November. There are also two ostriches who live with the giraffe family - usually they just ignore one another.

Imagine our surprise when we came upon one ostrich and the baby kicking, pecking, and chasing one another. Finally, the baby went to the area with the adults and came back out front with its mom. Then he strutted around the ostrich as if to say "nana-nana boo boo"!

This first video shows most of the action, with a big kick from the giraffe at the end. The second clip shows a little action but mostly highlights the aggressive side of of Mr C as he continually roots for the giraffe, shouting things like "Get him giraffe! Kick him!" I tell you, it sounded like we have taken him to boxing matches or something....

The otters were also going at it - tugging and dunking one another in their pool. I wasn't too surprised by that since I have read that otters are very playful by nature. I have emailed the zoo to ask them about all the crazy giraffe/ostrich match up and will post if/when I get an answer!
*I heard back from the zoo. The ostrich is new to the zoo and trying to find his place. He also was probably feeling protective and/or showing off for the other ostrich - a female. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Cleaning - The Natural Way

One good thing about the dark and cloudy winter we have had in my part of the world: You can't see just how dusty/dingy my house is! But the sunlight is not so forgiving and I have been working to get my house back under control. Last week, I spent some time tagging and sorting clothes for a consignment sale. There are lots of different ones out there and I have shopped at several in my area but my favorite is Just Between Friends. My check, after fees and such, should be around $130.

Now on to actually cleaning....Do you ever suffer from a headache or sneezing after cleaning your bathroom? A few weeks ago, a speaker at MOPS spoke on the topic of making our homes and lives less toxic. She gave some great tips on how to make some changes for your family that will make you healthier while helping the environment be cleaner and safer too. That in turn makes YOU healthier once again, so it's a win-win situation.

I have been using homemade and eco-friendly commercial cleaners for my floors, bathrooms, glass/mirrors, and woodwork for over a year now.

The easiest recipe to start with? Glass Cleaner! Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a squirt bottle. The first batch or so, you will want to add 1-3 drops of liquid soap and shake. This will help cut the residue left behind by commercial cleaners. If you don't like the vinegar smell, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender is really popular). I skip this step since vinegar is a natural deodorizer. It will quickly evaporate, taking the scent with it. A recent MOPS speaker inspired me to experiment with making and using my own laundry detergent and I have been pleasantly surprised! I discovered an excellent tutorial at Big Doll's Boomtown - she made it sound so easy. Guess was! Not only that, it was surprisingly inexpensive.
A few simple ingredients are all it takes. I found all of them at my local grocery store. You only use 1 -2 tablespoons per load, so I think this should last me a good while. To make another batch, you would have to buy more of the laundry soap but there is more than enough of the other ingredients left.
  • 2 C. grated laundry soap (Zote, Fels Naptha, or Kirk's Castile)
  • 1 C. borax
  • 1 C. washing soda
  • 1/2 C. baking soda
Here is a run-down of my cost: Fels Naptha laundry soap bar: $2.29; Arm &Hammer Washing Soda: $2.79; 20 Mule Team Borax: on sale for $2.99; Baking Soda (store brand): $0.56 = $8.63. I made a double batch and plan to see just how long it lasts.

After trying vinegar for lots of household cleaning with fabulous results, I decided to give in and test it as fabric softener. Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in your softener dispenser and be prepared to be amazed. Admittedly, my towels are not as soft and fluffy as with a commercial fabric softener. But, they are much softer than going without - which I had been doing for over a year since reading how much it can pollute our water supply. As a side note, I have a partially used industrial size jug of Snuggle softener gathering dust in my basement if anyone wants it!

I haven't tried this recipe for homemade dishwasher soap yet but is sure sounds interesting! Let me know if you try it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Funnies

Mr C really likes the Geico talking pothole commercial. It was not really a surprise a few weeks ago when called our pot roast dinner "pothole roast". As an aside, a few of my "friends" have told me that I sound like said talking pothole.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cake Pops

Have you ever sampled a cake pop? They are basically smashed up balls of cake with icing mixed in and then coated with either chocolate or melting candy. I had been reading on-line about them for some time, so I decided to try my hand at it for some of Miss M's teachers back on Valentine's Day. Here is the recipe I used:
* 1 box cake mix of your choice. 95% of the posts I saw used Devil’s Food - next time I think I will do yellow.

* 1 container of ready-made icing. Any flavor will do, but most recipes recommended cream cheese. That's what I used, but over all it was too rich for my tastes. I am thinking I will try just plain white icing next time.

* Candy Melts or Chocolate Bark (I used bark)

* Waxed paper, sprinkles, & candy/sucker sticks

Bake the cake in a 9x13 pan according to the box directions and let cool completely. (I let it cool overnight.) Then crumble it into a large bowl. Mix in about 1/2 a tub of icing until it is completely blended. You may need to add a bit more icing but it's better to start with a little and then add more later.

(I was in a hurry so I my pictures are crummy and I didn't take the time to snap many in the process of making the pops. But it's really simple, so I think you can figure it out anyway!)

Roll the batter into balls and place on waxed paper in the freezer for a few hours. You want them firm but not frozen solid. Just before you take them out of the freezer, melt your candy wafers or chocolate bark according to the package directions. Working one at a time, stick a sucker stick in the cake ball and then carefully dip it. I had to use a spoon to get good coverage. Here is a great trick that I learned but didn't apply until about 1/2 way through the project - tap the stick on the side of the bowl a few times after it's covered. This forces the extra chocolate/candy down and off so you have a nice smooth surface. You will see in my horrible pictures some using both techniques!
I had some Styrofoam in the basement and used that to hold my pops while the coating hardened. I also put a few sprinkles on each one. Once they were completely hardened. I packaged them two to a clear cello bag and finished off with ribbon and a tag made by Miss M.

You can certainly omit the sticks and just have cake balls if you wanted. If you want to see some really intricate cake pops, then be sure to visit Bakerella's site...beautiful - but she uses the same basic recipe!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Resurrection Rolls

My friend Michelle saw the previous post about resurrection cookies and shared resurrection rolls with me. Basically, you take a marshmallow, roll it in melted butter followed by cinnamon and sugar. Place the marshmallow in a crescent roll and bake. The marshmallow melts, making the roll "empty" like the tomb. Here is the recipe along with scripture references as well. I plan to give this a try with M and C.

St Patrick's Day Rainbow Cupcakes

As a subscriber to Family Fun magazine, I see lots of fun recipes and projects in each monthly issue. March didn't disappoint with this recipe for rainbow cupcakes. I had some icing in the fridge that was already tinted blue, so we used that instead of white. I have no idea why they turned out to be in concentric circles but tie-dyed on the outside. A friend made them and hers are perfect on the outside and all crazy on the inside. One tip before you try this for yourself: it takes a LONG time to spoon in each layer of color. I would suggest either only using 1/2 of your batter for cupcakes and the other half for a small cake - as suggested to me by Cupcake Nana. You could also buy a Jiffy brand cupcake mix as it makes only a dozen cupcakes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break!!

My mailbox is dressed for spring...the calendar says it's time...but the weather doesn't seem to notice! No snow here, but cold and rainy the last two days. It snowed just about 2 hours west of here and even parts south in Arkansas! Wow! (By the mailbox decoration was salvaged from an old wreath while the ribbon and butterfly were tied on a gift I received. Yes, I have a hard time throwing some things away!)
The above picture was taken early last week on a beautiful spring day. So glad Miss M was out last week for spring break. We went to an Imax movie about the ocean with about 40 MOPS friends; met our adopted mother/grandmother for the day near where she lives now; saw an AWESOME free puppet show at the library; enjoyed some DQ with our best buds; attended a live production of Max and Ruby; plus Miss M and I enjoyed some studio time at a local paint your own pottery place. It was a great "staycation"!
Mr C and I will miss the big sister when she is at school this week...we kinda got used to having her around all day!

Resurrection Cookies

Have you ever made or sampled Resurrection Cookies? They are formally known as meringue cookies, but using this recipe makes for a great hands on Easter lesson with your children. Miss M and I made a batch last year and delivered them to our neighbors on Good Friday. We tied them up and clear baggies and attached the a card with the following text:
We hope you enjoy these Resurrection Cookies. You will discover they are virtually empty inside –
just like the tomb of Jesus Christ when He arose from the dead!

For the wages of sin is DEATH; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
Romans 6:23

Friday, March 19, 2010

Painted Glass Plates

For once I am way ahead of the game. Each fall, my church has a "Celebration Tea" and ladies volunteer to create and host themed tables. I have participated as a hostess six times; I wrote about the most recent tea here.
I knew I wanted to do a cupcake table the next time and it is just starting to form in my mind. I bought some
acrylic glass paints last summer and Cupcake Nana used them to personalize and decorate tea cups as favors for Miss M's 6th birthday party. Well, I picked up clear glass dessert plates at Old Time Pottery at the sale price of $0.50 each!!

After cleaning them with rubbing alcohol, I drew a cupcake design on the front side of the plate using a dry erase marker - not my idea, but a tip from a fellow blogger. Thanks Nikki!! This works especially great if you wanted to put words on your plate. The only trick is to remember that you must paint the details first and let them dry, then paint over with your next color. I didn't wait long enough on a few of my sprinkles and there was a little bleed through. but hey..they are all truly handpainted!

I used the old tip of using the end of my paintbrush for the sprinkles and then the unused eraser of a pencil for the dots around the edges. After the paint dries for 48 hours, it says it is handwashable. Baking them at 325 for 30 minutes is all it took to make the plates dishwasher safe - not that I intend to put them there though! Here is a view from the back...
I have clear dinner plates from a previous table I hosted...not sure if I will paint those or not! I might just do the polka dots on them...not sure yet. I plan to use the clear punch cups I thrifted for last year's table. Now, I just need to come up with my favors and napkins...I have 7 months left to come up with those ideas!
* I used Americana Gloss Enamels that I found at Hobby Lobby for $2.99. You get 8 colors in a package and there was more than enough for both of my projects plus several more. Note they are NOT food safe which is why I painted the back side!

Friday Funnies

This is not exactly a "funny" but it was fun! We have visted the children's museum in our town many times and I could never get my children to experiment with this one display. They are plastic rods that slid from one side to other when you push on them. On our last visit, I couldn't get them to stop...they were doing every part of their body...and I mean every part they could!! Check out this video of Miss and her Daddy!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Almost Free Cupcake Totebag

If you have visited my blog before, you have surely seen how much I ADORE iron on fusible web. It is great stuff, especially for the sewing impaired crafter such as myself. I saw this idea a LONG time ago over at WhiMSy Love and finally took some pictures of the bag I created for Miss M.

My tote started out as a free giveaway from a MOPS convention. It was great to help carry all my stuff around while I was there, but got stuffed in my closet for longer than I would like to admit. You know the kind...canvas, thick utility straps, and some company's logo.

I drew a cupcake design onto the paper side of my iron on, then I followed the manufacturer's directions for applying it to the fabric and then on to the bag itself. I used some maybe vintage fabrics I found in my grandmother's house after her death. We used some of it at Miss M's tea party birthday party last summer. I then hand stiched around the edges and added a scatter of buttons as sprinkles. My talented buddy cross-stitched Miss M's name, which I have hidden from your view!

As a final touch, I cut off the ugly black straps and sewed on some pink gingham ribbon for handles. She uses it to carry her Bible, pencil, and assorted other items to church on Sunday. I am not sure how well the ribbon would hold up on a bag that received heavier use.

To see the inspiration and more of a tutorial post, check out WhiMSy Love.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Funnies

Mr C has been doing great with potty training...daytime has come together for him in just under 2 weeks! (Skittles are my new best friend!) A few days ago he was on the toilet and after a few minutes I suggested we come back and try again later.
"Just wait Mama. It is loading." Sure enough....success came soon after.

We tell him to "wait, it's loading" when we are on the computer waiting for the webcam on Skype. Oh yeah...he can also call her without help when we are already logged in. He's a little nutty but I love him!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

See You Soon Soldier

My brother left yesterday for Afghanistan - a two month deployment with the Arkansas Air Guard. Lots of differences from his first deployment in 2003: he was with the Army Guard, it was Iraq for about 18 months, he frequently had to go off the base, and was assigned multiple magazines for his rifle compared to the one this time. He has also gotten married since that first deployment.

Things have changed for us too. We know what it is like to worry every time the news reports a bombing near or on the base. We know how important little packages and notes from home can be. We have skype now - a great improvement over the webcams and IM from a few years back. We also know how relieved we will feel when he is home safely again and how heavy the weight of worry is until that time.

Before his first deployment, I wrote about 70 or so "remember whens", jokes and funnies, and special scriptures and cut them all apart, placing them in a plastic envelope. He was to pull out one a week until he got home. I gave him some more this time but was thankful it didn't have to be near as many.
His unit was greeted in Bangor Maine - their last US stop - by the Freeport Flag Ladies. This all volunteer group has made it their mission to see that every soldier who passes through their airport on they way to a deployment is greeted by someone. They also took photos that are available on their website for family members to view. In addition, every soldier had opportunity to make a free phone call home. Thanks ladies...

When you have a minute, please remember Nathan and all the soldiers who serve our country around the world.
My computer has been sick, but I have a new one and I think it can talk to my camera again. So I should be posting more regularly once again...check back soon to see a new masterpiece created by Miss M.


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