Behind the Scenes: Birthday Cakes

I kid myself with “behind the scenes”.  Like I am a movie star with something interesting to show you or something.  Hmpf!  But you know how you see someone else’s beautiful creation be it a craft or a recipe and you never see pictures of their 10 failures before they got it right?  Or how they completely destroyed their table with a glue gun?  Well, I’m posting pictures of some ugliness when it comes to making birthday cakes happen.

I actually am a Wilton certified cake decorator.  No, really.  I am.  I had big ideas of how awesome I was going to be and how I could use my awesome skills to earn extra money when I had a family.  Some of these grandiose ideas stemmed from my own mother, aunt and grandma who decorated cakes when I was a child.  But I realized in the midst of my training that I didn’t have a passion for it and with cake decorating you really need passion to get you through the days (yes, days) of baking, mixing, coloring and making cute swooshie things.  I realized since I didn’t love it, I just couldn’t be patient enough to make cakes pretty as the pictures.  Lesson learned.  But I still attempt to make fun cakes for my family’s birthdays.

My husband’s birthday is exactly a week before my 5 year old’s so there’s a lot of cake going on at that time.  Hubby requested mini cupcakes which I did in red velvet with cream cheese icing.  The thing about red velvet is it stains everything.  My hand looks like I just finished wiping blood from the counter instead of cake.

I ended up making 50 something mini cupcakes.  They are so cute but I was so done.  I took a few of them to create the number 36 and slapped on some icing, called it good.  They were too.

My sweet 5 year old requested a princess cake.  Not just any princess either, Princess Peach.  He really wanted me to make him this fondant Mario wedding cake I found online but that surely wasn’t going to happen.  He settled for this.

I know it’s not the best decorating in the world but I think it’s pretty good with the amount of time and effort I was willing to do.  I think it took me 2 hours to decorate.  Last year, I made him this Curious George cake.

He was even easier to make because I didn’t have a lot of colors I needed to mix.  So how do you make these mediocre cakes?  Use a template!

  1. Just find a picture and print it out to fit on your cake.
  2. Cut around all the edges then place it on your cake.
  3. Take a pointed knife or box cutter or exacto knife, whatever and cut around your template.  Make sure to not cut very deep.  In fact, the more shallow you cut the cake, the better.  Otherwise, when you serve the cake, it will fall apart on you.
  4. Remove the template and trace your cutting guide with icing.  With both of these cakes, I used black icing I bought.  If the picture isn’t complex, you can use an icing tip that comes with store-bought icing tubes.  Or find a craft or cake decorating store that sells Wilton tips (like Hobby Lobby or Michaels) and get the size you need.  The smaller the number, the smaller the size.  You do not have to buy icing bags either.  Just stick the tip through a corner of a sandwich baggie.
  5. Trace any outlines you need inside.  You can cut your picture if you don’t trust your creative instinct and trace like you did before or go wild and freehand it.
  6. Fill in with icing.  You can use a small star tip to fill in like you might see on Wilton cakes but I find it cramps my style… and my hand.  You can smooth the icing with a clean finger that you dip in a bit of water.

From all this partying, I had a mountain of dishes.  Both sinks are full and it’s overflowing.  😦   I despise doing dishes.  At least I got to eat a fair amount of cake!


Rental Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Whenever I think of Batman, I think of the cartoons I grew up with. Batman was always the good guy. He had faithful Robin by his side. Together they made Gotham a safe place from all the evil in the world. In this movie, it’s not so black and white. The movie is dark. It’s a story that lurks in the shadows. It is a kind of nightmare that slowly reveals itself. That sense of foreboding is present throughout the movie, even at the end.

Batman is missing, after being blamed for murder. Bruce is locked up in his house, broken in body and spirit, until a new foe emerges, Bane. Bane has a secret army underground preparing to take over Gotham. Batman makes a sloppy reappearance and is easily cast down again. As Bane’s reign of terror begins, Bruce is left in a legendary pit where his spirit is reawakened and rises up into the light.

My Take
Though this is definitely an “action movie”, it is also a thought provoking one which presents some interesting moral dilemmas if you desire to engage in the intellectual. The only comic relief that you get from the impending doom comes from Catwoman, pretentiously played by Anne Hathaway. It is a dry humor that doesn’t lend itself to laughing out loud for a few minutes, but rather it’s more of a smirk across the lips. All the characters are played very well but best actor award has to go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He transformed himself into a Brooklyn born cop who happens to be a lot like Bruce Wayne. It’s amazing to watch him and get sucked into his performance. In fact, it was a pleasure to get sucked into the whole dark movie for a few hours (yes, a few).

Kid Guide
I would recommend this to be a mom and dad date night-in movie only, unless your children are older than maybe 11 (or you like to comfort little children in the middle of the night for weeks). The Dark Knight Rises is definitely a dark movie and though there wasn’t much death and blood shown on-screen, there were plenty of innuendos. Plus, the overall theme and lurking-in-the-shadows feel is not appropriate for younger children. I even jumped in a few parts!

Grade Card: 4.75
Hathaway’s slightly unbelievable performance was the only downgrade. I definitely recommend it.

So, enjoy the movie after the kiddos are tucked safely and happily in their beds and get transported into a story where a hero rises out of the darkness.

TV Worth Watching

So the Fall Season is over and the Spring Season has started.  The only shows that I keep watching are…

Go On (NBC):

Nothing too deep but this is great sitcom comedy.  I can see that the characters could get old if the writers keep story lines repetitive.  I think that’s the big conundrum with writing TV.  You don’t want to change things up too much but you don’t want stagnant predictable episodes.

The Mindy Project (FOX):

Mindy is still awesome to watch.  You get invested in her life which changes from glamorous to dreadfully awkward to hopeful.  And she is completely hilarious!

The Neighbors (ABC):

I don’t feel as urgent to catch up on this as I do the other shows because I’m not as emotionally connected to the characters.  But once I start watching, I wonder why I stay away so long!  It is quirky comedy at its best.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS):

It’s still awesome.  If you’ve never watched it, you really must.  Enough said.

Downton Abbey (PBS):

This show hasn’t been in my posts because the 3rd season just started in January.  This show is definitely not for everyone but it is beautifully written and the acting is superb.  It is about an aristocratic family and their servants drama.  Ohhhhh and there IS drama.  You won’t get much laughs from this one but the stories are so compelling, you easily get sucked into their post World War 1 lives.  My husband would want me to warn you that they’re British and will speak in (what I think is a beautiful) accent.  If you still have something against the mother country, than you don’t want to watch it- though you may connect with Branson’s views.

Posted in TV Tagged

Dump Your Diet Chocolate Cookies

You might have been good all January with your salad eating, intense cardio sessions, weight losing resolutions but now it’s time…

to dump your diet with these delicious brownie chocolate chip cookies!  Believe me, it’s worth it… for just a day.  I don’t recommend eating a batch of these everyday for a week.  Then you might ruin all your progress from last month.  Don’t ask me how I know…

These are easy and quick to make which makes it a great recipe to use when you need a quick chocolate fix.  Not that I would know about that either.  Ahem.  It has a great light crispy flakiness on the outside like a traditional brownie but spectacularly chewy on the inside.  Super chocolate gooey-ness warm from the oven, but I like them best after they cool.

This recipe is not unique.  I originally found it on the world of Pinterest but also found it on other recipe sites too, all claiming to be the author.  You can make them your own though by substituting mint chips for the chocolate (done!) or peanut butter chips (need to try soon!).

Want to see what else I’m cooking up in the kitchen?  View my Pinterest board!

Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 package brownie mix

1 1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 Tbsp water

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients except for the chocolate chips.  The batter is going to be thick but if you have problems with the dry ingredients not getting moistened, then add another tablespoon more of water.  Fold in your chocolate chips.  Drop cookies onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 7-9 minutes.

New Year, New Me?

Ahhh, I love the new year!  I am a bit crazy and I love making goals for myself.  I really do this all year long but there is something about the start of a new year that makes me be able to forgive myself of all my shortcomings from last year and start anew…  At least that’s how I usually feel.  With that said, I haven’t made any resolutions yet.

I was looking at my 2012 resolutions and it was painfully obvious that I was failing.  I made 6 resolutions and I can confidently state I achieved 1 of them and completed half of two others.  3 out of 6 is 50% and 50% is an F.  F for F-A-I-L.  Cue sad music.

So instead of thinking about my bad grade from last year, I’m going to focus on an old resolution that went gloriously well.  Cleaning.

I know you’re already excited with just that simple word so let’s dive in to the topic.  Cleaning is something that you have to do and love the results but the actual work is not normally enjoyable.  Actually, a lot like your job.  And also like a project at work or school, when more people are involved, the more complicated it gets.  I had 4 people living in my house so cleaning seemed to be really complicated and I wasn’t master of that universe.  So I made a new year’s resolution to master it and I actually aced it by the end of that year.

Now aced it doesn’t refer to a sparkling clean house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Acing it refers to now I have a more manageable contained mess where everything has at least been recently sanitized.  Cause life isn’t perfect and certainly I am not and I live with a whole house full of people who aren’t either.  🙂

Tip #1:  Decide what your standard of cleanliness is.

Tip #2:  Lower it a notch for each opposing factor.

When I met my husband, I was one of those people that had my things and places very organized, neat and clean.  That’s how I like to live.  After a few years of trying to change my wonderful hubby to be like me, I decided I liked loving him (even with his huge pile of stinky clothes) better than fighting with him all the time.  This meant that there was a more…  lived-in style to our home.  With each child and stress, the standard of cleanliness went down.  It had to.  Unless I want to spend every moment of everyday cleaning.  I assume that most people do not want to be cleaning all day long every day too so that means lower your ideal standards.

Tip #3:  Decide how much time you’re willing to spend on it each day.

When I first made mastering a standard of cleanliness in my home a resolution, I was working about 25 hours a week in the evenings/nights and taking care of 2 kids during the day while my husband worked.  My “free” time was precious and my energy was even more so.  I knew that there was going to be some days where I couldn’t clean and when I did have time, it wasn’t going to be very much.  Now that my full-time job is to raise our 3 children and make a home, I have more consistent time and energy to go towards cleaning.  Be realistic and don’t put yourself up to something that you’ll fail at.

Tip #4:  Create a system.

The time you have and the type of cleaning that your household needs will determine what your system is.  Google cleaning routine and you’ll get all sorts of systems to look at and make your own.  When I first started, my system was a list of chores that I would rotate through.  There was no laundry day or clean the floors day.

1.  Dishes

2.  Counters

3.  Floors

4.  Bathrooms

5.  Laundry

The first block of time I had to do chores I would do dishes, the second time I would clean off all counters and so on.

There would be some days where I would get “backed up” and have to skip bathrooms to do some laundry and then go back to bathrooms.  The cycle would get broken up a bit but it worked for the most part.  About once a month hubby and I would take a Saturday and just work on cleaning the house up.  Sometimes the dishes piled up and the Mr. would do some cause I was working on floors.  We just accepted it since that’s how our life was at that moment and that moment we knew wouldn’t last forever.

Now that I’m home, I do have chores assigned to certain days.

Monday:  Counters, sinks & trash

Tuesday:  Floors & mop

Wednesday:  Toilets & mirrors or Bathtubs (these alternate every week), a Bedroom (deep cleaned once a month)

Thursday:  Counters & laundry (only wash & dry)

Friday:  Bills & fold laundry

Saturday:  Floors, Dust (every other week)

Everyday: Dishes

If for some reason, I can’t get to a chore on it’s assigned day, I just skip it that week (except for laundry).  If you were to come to my house on Wednesday, it will look pretty sparkling clean.  If you come on Saturday, it will most likely look like chaos.  But at least I know the floors underneath all the toys and random half-eaten quesadilla are still pretty clean!  I also have my 7 and 4 yr old boys help out.  They normally have one chore a day and sometimes two.  They typically help with dishes and pick up but I give them the option to help me with another regular chore where I try to teach them how to clean.  A very important skill if I am to stop cleaning when I’m 40, right?

Tip #5:  Revise and reward.

Try it out for a couple weeks and if it doesn’t work, change it!  Don’t force it to work.  My current routine has slowly changed to what it’s become today, home diva-ness.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  And you should tell yourself the same thing and add a special happy dance.  Or whatever you want to do to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing good in your life.

Now back to thinking what I can resolve to do this year…  I think eating chocolate will be on the list.  I’ll ace that.  🙂