Friday, May 31, 2013

16th Flaunt My Friend Friday! Heather!

Welcome to the 16th flaunt! Today I'd like to introduce you to my friend Heather. She's an old college buddy from back in the day (not that WE are OLD or anything!). Another reconnect through Facebook! I've been seeing her cake creations she's been sharing so of course I had to ask her to come share her stuff with us. I don't know, they almost look too yummy to eat! But you can certainly tell they're made by Heather with lots of fun and love! She was also nice enough to share some baking tips and even a recipe!


Hi everyone!  My name is Heather, and along with being a mother to my awesome son, Julius, and a wife to my best friend, Josh, I also teach English at Ivy Tech Community College.  My real passion, however, besides teaching, is baking.  I’ve always loved baking!  Every Sunday growing up, I would look through my mom’s recipes and find a dessert for dinner.  I’d try my hardest to make it look just like the picture, and when it failed, my mom would always encourage me to try again and that “it would still taste great” even if it didn’t match the picture.  My mom bought me my first Wilton decorating book about   8 or 9 years ago, and since then, I’ve been decorating cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc….and still trying to make everything look just like the pictureJ  

Although my baking started off as something fun to do, it’s starting to turn into a nice side job for some extra money!  I’ve named my cake making business, “Heather’s Happy Cakes”, and if you’d like to look me up, you can view all my creations on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeathersHappyCakes

 So I’d like to share a few of my creations, a great butter cream icing recipe that’s great on everything, and I’ll add in a few tips along the way.

My first real creation was a cookie bouquet for my friend’s baby shower about 9 years ago.  Sadly, I couldn’t find the exact picture from that baby shower, but have made others since, so here’s one I did for another baby shower a few years ago:


The cookie baskets are pretty simple to make.  I use a sugar cookie recipe, rolling it out thick so a skewer will insert into it.  I usually bake the cookies with the skewers inserted in them.  After the cookies have cooled, I use a powdered sugar icing (almost drizzling consistency) to ice them, which becomes somewhat hard when it dries.  I like this recipe for the this type of creation over a buttercream or softer icing because it won’t smudge if the cookies touch each other.  Then I line the container or basket with some type of foam, and then start arranging, poking the sticks into the foam.  For this basket, I also used some green Easter basket grass to cover the foam, and then added the ribbon and bow. 

As time went on, I would make cakes for family members and get-togethers.  Once my son was born, however, I really started to get creative, and strive to make every birthday special for him.  I started off simple for his 1st birthday by making a “1” shaped cake.  It wasn’t spectacular, but it was cute enough for a 1-year-oldJ  As the years went on, I started getting more creative with the cakes: Curious George, a Race Track, Spongebob, etc…but my first real sculpted cake came on his 5th birthday:  A pirate ship.  And then the next year, for his “Swamp People” gator party, I made a Gator cake, and then this past year, for his 7th birthday, a Super Hero cake.  I think my favorites, as far as his birthday cakes, include the gator cake and the Super Hero cake(with decorated sugar cookies and a fondant cape).
 

 

I’ve made other sculpted cakes for birthdays, showers, and graduations.  Below are a couple of my favorites:
 
This cake was for a baby shower with a bee theme.  So I did a bee hive cake and flower cupcakes with little fondant bees




 
The double cheeseburger cake was for my husband’s surprise 35th birthday.  It came with a side of “fries” made from sugar cookies.  My husband LOVES double cheeseburgers, so I wanted to give him a cake that looked just like one, complete with ketchup, mustard, and mayo (just the way he likes it).  It was pretty easy to do and if you’re wondering, the “sesame seeds” on the top of the bun are just rice krispies.



 

The Captain Morgan cake was made for a 21st Birthday celebration.  I was nervous about this cake as they were flying with it to Vegas, and I wasn’t quite sure how to make it “plane-proof”.  I used fondant for this one, and “painted” using food coloring mixed with a little bit of vodka. 


One of my other favorites was my sister’s graduation cake: the nurse cake, complete with stethoscope, pen, and name tag.  I used store-bought fondant for this one, as it was my first time using fondant, and I quickly realized that I needed to find a fondant recipe…quick!  So after this cake, I started making my own marshmallow fondant.  It’s pretty simple, yet REALLY messy to make. 


I did my first wedding cake last year for my sister-in-law. (Sorry, but the picture was taken a little crooked.)  I was sooo nervous about this cake.  It was a 3-tier cake, so it was the tallest one I’d ever done.  It turned out quite nicely, though, and I’ll be doing my first paid wedding this August, so I’m pretty excited!


I’ve also done some cupcakes and cake balls over the years.  Cake balls can be a little tricky, as they sometimes fall apart when you dip them in the hot, melted chocolate.  The trick is to freeze them before dipping themJ  Here are a few of my favorites:
 
I made these watermelon cake balls for the 4th of July last year.



 
I just made these “Grill Out” cupcakes for our Annual Memorial Party this year.  The “food” is made from Tootsie Rolls, Hot Tamales, and cut up Gummi Bears on toothpicks.  You can buy food coloring markers, which I used to make the grill marks on the burgers and dogs.


 
One of my all time favorite cakes was the Colts themed cake I did for a double 30th birthday party last year.  As a huge Colts fan, it was a pleasure to make this cakeJ  It was a massive cake and very heavy since it was a half sheet cake with 2 individual jersey cakes on top.

I thought I’d also share a few tricks of the trade, so here goes:

·         It’s hard to get that perfectly smooth surface when using butter cream because there always seems to be that pesky line when trying to smooth it out with a knife or even icing tools.  So what I’ve picked up is to use a Viva paper towel.  And it has to be Viva because they don’t have a pattern of any kind.  The trick is to get the icing as smooth as possible, then let it sit in the fridge until it gets a “crust” on the icing.  Then, lay the paper towel on the cake and gently (and lightly)  use your hand to smooth the icing out.  The heat from your hand softens the icing and helps even out any imperfections.

·         If stacking a cake (like with the wedding cake or super hero cake that I included above), always using dowels in the cake so the top cake won’t cave into the bottom layer.  You can use thicker skewers cut to the height of the cake, or you can buy cake dowels at hobby and craft stores.

·         Don’t over-bake!!  It’s tricky to find that “perfect” time when the cake is done, but not over-done.  And it changed depending on your oven.   It can become dry if it’s cooked just 2 minutes too long.  What I’ve learned is that if you’re using a darker pan, cook at a lower temperature.  (If it says 350 degrees, cook it at 325 degrees).  Also, it’s better to set the timer for less time and then add a few minutes.  Test the cake with a toothpick, and when it comes out clean, take it out of the oven.  There have been times that I thought the cake wasn’t done even when the toothpick was clean.  Trust the toothpick!

·         If you’re wanting to do a specific design or picture on your cake with icing, it’s not as hard you might think.  I’ve learned to use the internet and a printer.  Find the picture you want, print it, and then cut it out.  Put a layer of icing on your cake and then let it set in the fridge until it’s crusted over.  Place your printed out template on the cake and trace it using a toothpick.  You can then use your icing to trace the outline and fill in with other icing colors.  I’ve used this technique on sooo many cakes, like this one:
 
 

Thanks for letting me share a little bit of my cake making with you!  I hope you enjoyed it, and maybe it inspired you to bake up something funJ  And as promised, here’s the butter cream recipe that I use.  It’s so easy to make and work with, and it’s great on just about any cake or cupcake.

Butter Cream Icing

  • ½ cup Crisco or other shortening
  • ½ cup margarine (or butter.  If using real butter, be sure it’s soft)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 4 – 4 ½ cups powdered sugar (I usually start with 4 cups and then if I want a stiffer icing, I add more powdered sugar)

Mix the shortening and butter until creamy.  Add the vanilla and almond and mix.  Alternate the milk and powdered sugar, adding powdered sugar first, then the milk.  If you want the icing to be a more stiff, add more powdered sugar.  If you want it a little creamier, you can add a little more milk.

Wow! Thank you so much Heather! Not only did we get some great eye candy, we were given some very useful tips and tricks! So wonderful of you to share! I love that beehive! And the Grilling Out cupcakes... just too creative and interesting! If you're in the greater Indianapolis area you might want to check out Heather's site if you have a special event in mind.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What a month it's been!

I have to say this has been quite a month. Not in a good way.

When I went in for my yearly well woman's exam, it came back with abnormal results. Ok, that's pretty normal I hear.

Had to find another doctor to do the biopsy. Found one, made my appt. Get Greg to come home to watch kids, only to find this wasn't an appt for a biopsy, this was just a get to know you, talk about results. Ugh. Don't people know how hard it is for me to get to appointments by myself?? We know NO ONE in the area.

Schedule it for that Friday. Got a babysitter. Then 30 minutes before, she cancels on me. I'm rushing around like a lunatic trying to figure out what to do. I end up going to Greg's work and sitting in the parking lot, waiting for him to get done with a meeting. I was 5 minutes late, but the show went on.

Results come back precancerous. So now time for surgery to remove those cells. I'm thoroughly FREAKED out by this point. I feel like I should of felt more relief, I mean at least it wasn't cancer!

We've had a nasty cold virus around here for over two weeks. First Jake had it, missed THREE days of school. We were stuck at home. The day I took Jake to the doctor, was our 8th wedding anniversary... celebrating in style let me tell ya. Then I got sick too, haven't been to the gym now in two weeks. Boo! I'm still sick, I was almost too sick for surgery. I was so stressed out over that. Luckily my dad was going to visit at this time anyway, so we had extra help.

During the middle of all this I also somehow got poison ivy. It was bad in some patches, but the worse thing was that it made all my old fire ant bites flare up. I was in a lot of itchy pain for two weeks before I got sick recently.

Had surgery on Tuesday. Everything went well, I was a complete nervous wreck though. Even though it was just a twilight sleep, I've never been under. I remember telling them that I didn't like how it burn up my arm as they put in the medicine... next thing I know it's an hour later and there's a nurse telling me hi. They had to remove more than they originally thought, but it's all gone now. Last step is for the biopsy on what they removed to make sure it was all precancerous, then a follow up appointment mid June.

Greg had yesterday off for my bed rest day. He was a really good nursemaid. Although, I did have to chuckle with him doing everything I do... at one point he was completely sweating and said "I don't know how in the hell you do this every day!" He did good, he's a good daddy and husband!

Taking it easy today. The older neighborhood kids came and got Jake to walk him to bus stop. I do have to be there to get him off the bus, but figured I can rest all day today. Only other thing I have to do is get Evan to and from preschool camp. He started "camp" from 9am-12pm for the next two weeks at his new school that he'll be going to in the Fall. He loves it! Came home with such a cute craft yesterday and they complimented on how well he writes and colors.

I can't pick up anything heavier than 10 lbs until next week. Luke is NOT happy about that, and he does not understand. I put a stool in the car so he can climb into his car seat. Guess I'll do the same for nap time into his crib and just kind of push him over, ha ha. Speaking of Luke, he'll be TWO on Sunday... yah I know, time flies, you don't have to tell me!

I'm just looking forward to a new month, recovering, getting back to the gym, and having a great summer!!




Friday, May 24, 2013

15th Flaunt My Friend Friday! Lara!

Welcome to the 15th Flaunt my Friend Friday! Today I'd like to introduce my friend Lara to you. She was part of my very first moms groups. She's one of the first people I met, I remember thinking when I first saw her... oh I hope we'll be friends! And we are, yay! She has quite the green thumb, and I just had to share her with you too! Please give her a warm welcome. 

Her family, but not her yard ;)

Hi everybody!  I’m Lara and Tyson and have been friends for a thousand years.  I have three boys as well so we always have a lot to talk about.  I have never blogged before so thanks for the chance, Tyson.  Hopefully nobody rolls their eyes too much during my maiden voyage. 

 Anyway, I like gardening.  A lot.  I grew up in the Midwest and learned to garden there somewhat from my family, but mostly trial and error after I got married and we bought a house five hours away from said family due to my new husband’s job.  Two years ago, the hubs’ employer shipped us to the southeast.  We love it here and don’t plan to move again but in many respects, gardening included, living here couldn’t be more different from the Midwest than possibly moving to Jupiter.  So I had to start over, not only with planting things in a yard that was only grass, but also with everything I knew.  Here gardens are made up of what are houseplants in the Midwest.  Even the grass here is a weed everywhere else and most of what I had in Illinois would cook.  So I’m back to trial and error but am having a good time with it.  I’ve had some stuff in the ground for about a year so none of it is very big, but I’m pleased to report it’s bigger than it was when I planted it.  Yay!  I’m not going to tell you how to garden, in the southeast or anywhere else.  I just thought I would pass on some tips I have learned that go slightly beyond the tag on the plant, but I always read the tag on the plant.  I am not trying to insult your intelligence, but I know that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer and if I am getting basic information on something and I know ANYTHING that is involved, I’m a little proud of myself.  (Quick side note, sorry the pictures aren’t that great.  I should have written this in July when everything is blooming!)

  I love the leaves on this Tropicanna.  I have it in a pot on my patio and all I have to do it hack it down to about six inches in the winter.  In the summer it’s six feet tall with big orange flowers.

 



I also like color.  Ask Tyson, my house in Illinois looked like a crayon box.  I like the red hibiscus with the purple queen at the bottom and my blue pot with herbs in it.  And a tomato because I didn’t know what to do with it.  The massive grass expanse in the background belongs to my neighbor.  It takes him a long time to cut all that ninja weed grass.


OK, the first thing you need to know is where you live so you can choose something that will grow well there.  If you don’t know where you live, I’m impressed you have internet access.  J  If you live in the US, you can check out this plant hardiness map,  to find out your zone.  Another big deal is to know which way your house faces.  The south side always gets the most sun and the north side the least.  Obviously, the east side gets morning sun and the west gets afternoon sun.  These sun statements are only true, however, if you don’t have a big tree already there.  You definitely want to make sure you are planting your chosen lovely in the right sunlight.  Just about everything else you can fix.  Then you have to decide if you want an annual (will not live through the winter unless you bring it in the house) or a perennial (comes back year after year).  I prefer perennials mostly because I’m lazy and cheap but also because I like to see the growth from year to year.  

This is my favorite thing in my yard that I didn’t plant—a white bird of paradise.  I put my hand there so you can see that the flowers on this thing are about a foot across.  Plus they look like that.  This beast will get to be 30 feet tall.  I love it but pruning it is a lot like exercise.

Then get thee to a nursery and buy thyself a plant!  Read the labels or ask the people who work at the nursery to find out how big plants will get, how much sun and water they need, what kind of soil they like, if they flower and if they need to be pruned (cut back to promote new growth).    I like the wild and wooly look and low-maintenance plants.  (You can actually ask for low-maintenance plants.  Sometimes it even says that on the tag.)  Beware of plants that need to be “deadheaded”. This means you will have to cut off spent flowers to promote more blooms.  To me, it’s fine to have a few of these (because most are stunning) but you may not be super thrilled deadheading several eight-foot-tall rosebushes.



This is my gardenia. I carried some of these in my wedding bouquet. I have to deadhead it but it makes my whole patio smell good for months so I think it’s worth it.


So you buy your plant and bring it home.  I’m going to pretend it’s a perennial because I like them.  In some areas of the country you need to call and have your utilities marked before you dig a hole so you don’t damage any pipes or cables.  If you plan to “amend the soil” at all (buy compost or other goodies to mix with the existing dirt), now’s the time.  Then you can pick your spot and dig your hole.  Lots of plant tags say to dig the hole twice as wide as the container.  I don’t.  Your call.  If you bought granular fertilizer, follow the directions and apply it now.  Stick your fingers in the bottom and sides of the root ball to loosen up the roots a bit.  Put the plant in and make sure it is level, with the side you like best facing the way you want and the top of the root ball level with or slightly above ground level (depends on the plant).  Then fill up the hole with dirt and water with the hose on low for about one minute.  Dig your shovel in around the root ball so you try and minimize air pockets and then water it with the hose on low again for 10-15 minutes.  Then mulch the base (unless you planted a citrus tree.  Citrus trees “breathe” through the tiny roots at the top of the root ball and if you cover them with dirt or mulch or let too many weeds get in, the tree will suffocate.  I’m really sure.) according to the directions.  Most plants like two inches of mulch that doesn’t quite touch the stem.  If the plant is very near your house, use cedar mulch so you don’t invite bugs into your house.  If it’s just out in the yard, the cheap stuff is fine.  Mulch keeps water in and weeds out and protects plant roots in the winter so you may want to “fluff your mulch” (move it around with a rake) or add more in the spring and fall.  Water according to the directions until the plant is established (I have found a month is good unless it’s really hot and dry).  Then hope for the best and watch your plant grow! 

We went on vacation when I was a kid and I saw a bougainvillea and told my mom I wanted one.  She told me I would have to move to where they grow so as soon as we did, I got one.

I liked it so much I got a purple one too.

And if it doesn’t, you are not alone.  I’ve killed just about every plant there is, even the ones that are supposed to be hard to kill, but I still love gardening.  Having fresh flowers in my home from my yard makes me smile.  Having my kids help me plant stuff and then seeing their faces when what they planted flowers or fruits or gets taller than they are is spectacular to me.  Just looking at some small successes (so far!) in my yard gives me a lot of satisfaction and makes me feel like my time was well-spent.  I don’t pretend to be good at it.  I just really enjoy learning and adding more and planning and planting (not so much with the weeding though) and I hope that my garden will always be a work in progress.  Much like myself.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks Lara! I loved reading about it all. You've encouraged me to get some plants soon, and not to worry so much about what's right/wrong/etc! I think you leave us with a good lesson to at least try, right? You might come up with a hobby you enjoy and love (and bonus it makes your living space more livable)!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flaunt My Friend Fridays So Far...

My flaunt for today didn't work out. Bunch of stuff came up for my friend and she wasn't able to do it. I think you all would of loved it too... it involved her, her cute french bulldog, their living abroad and international travel tips and stories (she's one of the best story tellers I know, hopefully we'll see her later after another overseas move). So I thought I'd take a break today and summarize all the FMFF thus far! Enjoy!

First we had Elizabeth who shared about her way of tackling all the kids artwork and how she displays it at home and also archiving hard copies AND digital



Second was Ellie who showed us the fantastic dresser that her and her husband came up with for her little ones nursery.



Third was Shelley that gave us and inside peek at being a food blogger!



Fourth was Missy, and she schooled us in essential oils!



Fifth was Tara who gave us a peek into her home school world



Sixth was Kerstin who shared an original poem



Seventh was April who gave us some food for thought about being a photographer

new blog pic

Eighth was Kim, who shared with us her little girl nursery and who gave birth to her that day!



Ninth was Leslie, that shared with us information and awareness of gifted children.



Tenth was Kris, taught us a little about Roller Derby!



Eleventh was Susan, shared with us about being a wedding planner and her favorite wedding (beautiful!)



Twelfth was Megan, who so graciously shared some of her favorite things about the house they built themselves



Thirteenth was Megan H, my sister in law, who shared some neat things to do with your nails!



Fourteenth was Allie, that shared with us a great tutorial on a DIY bulletin board



I hope you checked them each out. Something to learn from each. I'm blessed to have so many interesting people to flaunt to you. I have up until July planned out, if you're interested let me know. I try to contact people with filling up the calendar, but I don't want to put people on the spot either. If it's something you're interested in and you have something to share, let me know :) Stay tuned for future posts... so far there's a gardener, some bakers, home decor projects, weight loss/fitness inspiration, and a camper!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

Currently as I type Greg has taken the boys to the gym with him. Ahhhhh quiet. It's glorious.

This Mother's Day, I'm grateful for this woman who without her, there would not be Greg! She's not just my Mother in Law, she's also a mom to me! She's also a fantastic grandmother to the boys. I'm bummed I don't have a picture with just her and I... I guess since we're both mothers usually one of us is the one taking the picture ;)




Then feeling blessed that due to loving this guy... I became a Mother!

 


 

Then through the wonderful selfless love of another mother, I got to become a mother through adoption as well. Special thoughts go out today to our baby son Grant in Heaven. I hope I lived up to the promise I made to you that last day.




How blessed am I?



Pretty darn blessed. That's for sure. I'd do well to remember that when it's so loud I can't hear myself think and I worry that all I'm doing is messing them up.
 
"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about" ~ Angela Schwindt

Friday, May 10, 2013

14th Flaunt my Friend Friday! Allie!

I'm so excited that Flaunt my Friend is on it's FOURTEENTH week. Did I not tell you I know a lot of amazing people? Continuing the amazing trend, I'm happy to introduce my friend Allie to you! She has talents that are multi-faceted and incredibly creative! Everyone wants any recipe that Allie uses or comes up with. Even her beautiful girls are foodies and share their moms hilarious sense of humor and big ole lovely heart. She's also one to discuss styles, clothes and fashion with as well. But she's not fussy, she also loves her football! Jack of all trades I tell ya and a great friend to have.

Hello Everyone!!  I'm Allie, wife to my best buddy, mama to two girls, and owner and operator of The Graceful Rose.  I live in Seattle, where yes - it rains A LOT!  Why do people live here?  Well, the days that are sunny, although they are few and far between, are absolutely stunning!  Plus, I like coffee so...it helps that there are 6 Starbucks within a half a mile ;-)

here's my little family at a recent wedding - don't worry, we are NOT this fancy every day!

I'm so honored that Tyson asked me to share a bit of my world with you!  I always loved arts and crafts as a kid, but I honestly didn't do a whole lot of it until I became a mom.  I learned to sew in middle school (thanks, Mrs. Thompson!), but never touched a sewing machine until my girls were about 4 and 2.  Since then, I've really enjoyed sewing, especially since there are so many great fabrics and patterns out there!  My hobby recently turned into a business, which has been great, but has left me needing to add a few organizational tools to my craft room.  So, I'm going to share a tutorial for turning any old frame into a customized memo/inspiration board.

First, let's chat about what you'll need:

 
  • A frame - Mine was on clearance at IKEA
  • foam board
  • fabric - I used this cute print from the Nicey Jane line by Heather Bailey - love her!
  • spray adhesive
  • X-acto knife and self-healing cutting mat
  • fabric marking pen and fabric scissors
  • spray paint (optional)

 
 
First, take the cardboard and glass out of your frame.  Don't be like me and ruin your manicure pulling those little metal doo-dads up!  Use a screwdriver.

 (waaaaaaah!)

If you want to spray paint your frame, now is the time to do it.  Use at least two coats to make sure the color is even!  While it's drying...

Trace the liner of your frame onto your foam board.

Using your self healing cutting mat as a base, carefully cut the shape out with your X-acto knife.



Place your foam board shape onto your fabric (right or wrong side - either is fine).  Trace the shape with your fabric marker and cut out.



Spray the foam board with adhesive and press your fabric on top.  You could cut the fabric a few inches bigger than your shape and just glue it to the back, but I find that can be bulky and not sit well in the frame, so spraying it with adhesive is my preferred method.  If you have any wrinkles, get out an old gift card and smooth them out.


Place the fabric covered board back into your frame and voila!  A custom bulletin board to use however you like. 


I chose to hang mine in my craft room and use it as an inspiration board, but of course, this would be cute anywhere you need a message center - landing area by the front door, a kid's bedroom, etc.  You could even go buy some T-pins at the fabric store and use them to hang up your jewelry.  The possibilities are endless :)




I hope you make a custom bulletin board for yourself!  Feel free to stop by The Graceful Rose Blog and say hi!  Thanks again, Tyson, for having me!

Yes, definitely go stop by her blog and shop, say hi and browse around! Especially if you have girls that love cute dresses and would love dresses to match with their dolls. She has a giveaway that ends today so go check it out! Don't forget to "like" her page on Facebook. Thanks so much for letting me flaunt you and for sharing your bulletin board Allie, it's fantastic! It will need to be pinned on Pinterest for sure. Gotta love projects that are DIY that can showcase your personal style and lots of bang for your buck. Helps you be organized, even better! Best wishes for continued success with your business!