Christmas Cupcakes

IMGP0525

Baking is not something I do very often, but I do enjoy it. Chocolate cupcakes have become my signature treat. I always use the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe and this American Buttercream frosting recipe from the blog Glorious Treats. It’s definitely a sweet combination but incredibly delicious.

IMGP0527

Since moving to Tennessee, I’ve had to adjust my baking time to 20 minutes for cupcakes. I think the oven in this house runs a little hot. If I bake for the minimum recommended time, the tops get a little bit firmer than I like. I’ve found that 20 minutes gives me that perfectly moist and light texture throughout the entire cupcake.

I’ve also made minis with this recipe. After googling and doing a little trial and error, I found that 9 minutes is perfect for my oven. Depending upon your oven and the recipe used, the typical recommended range seems to be 10-14 minutes.

IMGP0524

I made mostly traditional red and green Christmas cupcakes this time around, but the girls have been wanting me to make Frozen cupcakes. I separated my batch of frosting into two and colored one half green for the cupcakes above and one half with this light blue color similar to Elsa’s dress and the color used on Frozen merchandise. I want to make these cupcakes at some point with handmade snowflakes, but snowflake sprinkles were easier and more convenient this time around. And the girls enjoyed putting the sprinkles on themselves.

IMGP0530

It was a successful first attempt at decorating cupcakes with the girls. One at a time I would pipe frosting onto a cupcake and then let one of the girls put snowflake sprinkles on top. Then I would repeat with the other kid. We alternated turns until they were all decorated. It was a pretty low stress way of doing it. The only difficulty was keeping them from eating too many sprinkles between cupcakes. Every time I turned my back to put a newly decorated cupcake onto the counter and to grab a plain cupcake, they would each grab a bunch of sprinkles from the bowl and stuff them into their mouths (I had to dump the sprinkles into a bowl because the holes in the shaker top were too small for the sprinkles to come out?!). But we survived with enough sprinkles to finish our little batch of Frozen cupcakes!

IMGP0514IMGP0516

And as an aside, the red “plates” you see above holding the decorated cupcakes are actually cupcake holders from Dollar Tree. They have tops that latch on for storing and transporting. They aren’t the most durable plastic and I have never carried them by the handles just in case, but they are awesome. If you have a Dollar Tree nearby and they have these in stock, immediately run out and buy a bunch of these, you will not regret it!

Advertisements

Christmas Books Advent Calendar

IMGP0413

It’s been a little while since my last post. Things have been busy around here with the holidays and such.

The weekend before Thanksgiving we went to Atlanta with my husband who was attending a work conference. We had a lot of fun visiting the Georgia Aquarium, especially since we got to attend a “wake up Santa” event. It is apparently one of the best aquariums  in the country and definitely did not disappoint! Katie is still enthralled and mentions it regularly throughout the day.

We went to the Zoo Atlanta on our last day in the city. It wasn’t the greatest zoo in the world, but it was a lot of fun and they have panda bears, including two babies, which was really exciting to see! We rode the train and the carousel. Again, Katie mentions these regularly throughout the day. It was a fun trip, especially for Katie!

My husband’s brother, Tim, came for Thanksgiving. A very fun day! It was my first time cooking a holiday meal for anyone other than just us. It went pretty well and I think I found a keeper of a stuffing recipe. I’ll have to share soon…

IMGP0418

But now it’s on to Christmas! One of the things I’m really excited to do again this year is our Christmas books advent calendar. I did this last year for the first time and it went pretty well. I bought a few new books featuring some of Hannah’s new favorite characters (Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy) to switch out some of the not as great ones from last year.

The books I wrapped in order from 1 to 25 are as follows:

1. The Christmas Story* by Patricia Pingry (An excellent Biblically accurate version of the Christmas Story. I highly recommend!)

2. The Night Before Christmas* by Tomie DePaola

3. Bear Stays Up for Christmas* by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

4. Angelina’s Christmas (Angelina Ballerina) by Katharine Holabird

5. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas* by Jane O’Connor

6. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle

7. The Friendly Beasts an Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie DePaola

8. The Mitten* by Jan Brett

9. Merry Christmas, Stinky Face by Lisa Mccourt

10. Corduroy’s Christmas Surprise by Don Freeman

11. The Wild Toboggan Ride by Suzan Reid

12. Good King Wenceslas by Jamichael Henterly

13. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Eileen Daly

14. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

15. The Snowy Day* by Ezra Jack Keats

16. The Twelve Days of Christmas A Christmas Carol Little Golden Book (couldn’t find link to the one we own)

17. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

18. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

19. Mickey’s Christmas Carol Little Golden Book

20. Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola

21. Room For a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

22. Jingle Bells Little Golden Book by Kathleen Daly

23. The Hat* by Jan Brett

24. The Littlest Christmas Elf Little Golden Book by Nancy Buss

25. The Christmas Story Little Golden Book by Jane Werner Watson

(* highly recommend)

In terms of order, I like to sort the books into categories first (religious, Christmas secular, winter…). I lay out the books on the floor in rows to represent each week. I start with religious books as the first and last books as well as on each Sunday. Then I fill in the rest from my other categories, mixing them up so that there is always variety. I make a point of putting favorites in the first week or two so that we can read them as often as we like throughout the Christmas season.

Once I figure out my order, I simply wrap them up and then put a sticker on each with a number. Katie helped me pick out the wrapping paper at Dollar Tree. The stickers I made using 8 1/2″ x 11″ Avery label paper and a 2″ circle punch.

Not all of these books are necessarily top notch books, but I will add some each year so that hopefully in the  future they will all be favorites. It’s a little hard to get started with so many books, but I found that thrift stores and ebay were a good way to inexpensively fill in the gaps between the nicer books we have slowly acquired and ones I owned as a child and have kept.


Fall Porch Decor

IMGP0111

I finally finished decorating our front porch, and I love it! I started out with the grapevine and felt flower wreath, which you can read about here, and then went from there.

IMGP0109

The doormat is from Bed Bath & Beyond. Doesn’t seem to be on their website… I love that it will work for the entire fall season.

The hay bales, the mums, and the mini gourds are all from Home Depot. I bought four small hay bales, placed two on each side, stacked one on top of the other with the bottom hay bale a little bit pushed forward away from the house and the top one resting against the house to create a stair step. Then I scattered the mini gourds over the tops.

The gourds are constantly getting rearranged. My girls love to switch them around and to take them all off and pile them up on the top of the porch steps until I insist that they be put back. Katie loves to run around when I’m not looking with random bumpy ones saying “favorite” trying to bite the bumps off until I catch her and convince her that it’s yucky and that she should stop.

IMGP0117

The mums are still in the pots that they came in, which I then put into inexpensive baskets from Michael’s to dress them up a little.

IMGP0108

The Martha Stewart dimensional silhouette bats were originally on the door, as you can see here. I used the glue dots included in the package but they didn’t survive the afternoon. I then used a little bit of hot glue on the dots thinking that might do the trick. Sadly, no. I wasn’t sure what to do with the bats until a few days later when we had a thunderstorm and a bunch of smallish branches fell from our two large trees in the front yard. While gathering them to put with our yard waste, I realized that they would be perfect for the bats and FREE. A little hot glue and done. No falling off this time. I was originally sad that the bats didn’t stick to the door because I really loved the way that looked, but I think they look way better on the branches!

And the final addition were the pumpkins. A $20 score from our church’s first annual pumpkin patch. Hannah picked them all out except for one. They aren’t really carving size. We might just do stickers at some point and call it good. They’ll last longer that way anyway.

I think the porch is complete. I’m really tempted to make some of these lanterns or these ones to line our walkway, but I’m nervous about using glass mason jars with our kids running around outside. Maybe just for the week of Halloween, or maybe next year…


It’s been awhile…

IMGP0054

Over the past year or so we have had a lot of changes in our household, all of which have been wonderful. I have adjusted nicely to life as a mom of two.

IMGP0066

The last time I posted, Katie was only about 4 months old. Now she’s 18 months!

IMGP0064

Hannah turned 3 in July and has become a full fledged preschooler, although she disagrees and insists that she will be a toddler forever…

IMGP9881

And a really big difference is that we moved. Not just a little move, but an across the country with two toddlers kind of move. It was a little overwhelming but we did it and survived. Goodbye Bay Area, hello Nashville! We love it here. The best part is that we are happily living in our first home and are no longer in an apartment. And with that extra space comes a sewing room! So far I haven’t sewn anything since we’ve been here. I need to buy some tables and get everything all set up the way I want. I’ve been so overwhelmed with getting us unpacked and settled and painting and ordering furniture, that honestly, I haven’t had time to think about sewing, except that Halloween is just around the corner and I have two princess dresses to get started on…

Hopefully now I can get back to my blog and get some regular posts going. Even though I was definitely sewing and making things for the girls over this past year or so, I just never had the time or energy to document it. Here’s to hoping for better follow through in the weeks and months to come.


Happy First Birthday, Sweet Hannah

It’s been such a whirlwind celebrating Hannah’s first birthday. So much fun, so much work, but most importantly, so many memories. I loved a post I saw on the blog, The Cottage Home, which was a sort of tribute to her daughter on her daughter’s birthday. She wrote 20 things that she wanted to remember about her little girl on her special day. So here is my tribute to my sweet Hannah…a few days late (her birthday was Sunday, July 22nd).

1. You love baby dolls. You hug them and kiss them and offer them to mommy and daddy to hug and kiss also.

2. You always have a serious expression and analyze everything you see whenever we are out and about.

3. You love to walk or run everywhere and anywhere all day long!

4. You love to wave. The other day on the way home from the library, you waved to all of the cars passing by and many people smiled and waved back at you. At one point, you even waved enthusiastically with both hands.

5. You like to come up to mommy and daddy and give a hug just because.

6. Some of your favorite foods are chicken, spaghetti, avocado, and raspberries.

7. You love to play on the playground, especially with the metal steering wheel.

8. Books are one of your very favorite activities.  All day long you peruse the books in your bookcase, dumping most of them onto the floor in the process. You will sit quietly and flip through books or you’ll eagerly run up to me with a book you want me to read to you. We read your Bible and at least 3 stories every night before bed.

9. You run to the computer every time you hear the skype ringtone. And you also come running anytime mommy’s phone rings. You cry if mommy doesn’t hold you and let you listen to and/or participate in the conversation.

10. You understand basic commands like wave, clap, high 5, kiss, and come to mommy.

11. You are starting to test your boundaries. When you sit in the little rocking chair that used to be mommy’s, sometimes you like to stand up just to see what mommy will do.

12. You like to look at pictures of babies. Every time mommy shows you pictures of yourself you smile, and now sometimes you wave.

13. You like to watch mommy blow soap bubbles.

14. You’ve figured out how to use your walker wagon like a scooter and you love to scoot around the living room.

15. You usually enjoy picking out fabric with mommy. You like to feel the different textures and study the different colors and prints.

16. You like to peruse the sale racks at Target. Recently a woman saw you looking through clothes on a bottom rack and exclaimed, “She’s shopping!”

17. You like to cuddle your little lamb lovie when you go to sleep at night.

18. You love to get into the cupboards and empty them competely, especially the bread cupboard. Mommy and daddy are always finding a loaf of bread or a bag of hamburger buns in random places.

19. Baths are one of your most favorite things to do. You especially love your bath toys–a rubber ducky, a fish cup, and an Ernie bath book.

20. When you are done eating, you love to swipe your hands across your high chair tray so that all of the food goes flying off in every direction. And if mommy forgets to take the sippy cup, you love to shake it all around and sprinkle the whole area with water and then hold it upside down and empty the rest of the water all over your tray.

This is my sweet little Hannah at one year old. I can’t believe how different and yet how the same she is from the day she was born. What a blessing this little girl has been to my life. Happy first birthday, Hannah.


First Birthday Party Fun

This past Sunday we celebrated Hannah’s first birthday. Her actual birthday is this Sunday, but I thought it would be fun to coordinate Hannah’s birthday party with our July potluck at church. It was a day of good friends, good food, and a refreshing swim in the church pool.

I can’t believe I planned my first birthday party and lived to tell the tale! It was so much more work than I thought it would be, and what I did was incredibly simple compared to the so many talented mommies out there in the blogosphere. I’m proud of what I put together, though, since party planning is really not my thing.

Although I had grand plans to make the cake and cupcakes from scratch, I ended up using cake mix. Thank goodness too, because even that took forever. For the cupcakes I used a yellow cake mix—I’m not a big fan of vanilla—and a chocolate fudge cake mix. And for the cake I used chocolate fudge mix also. The trouble I ran into with the cake mix was that it’s so light that I had a heck of a time moving the cake layers from the pans, to the cooling racks, and then onto the cake plate in one piece. Oh well, nothing that a little frosting couldn’t hide.

And speaking of frosting, I did actually make my own. It was delicious! Not sickeningly sweet like so many recipes out there but definitely sweet enough to satisfy the sweet tooths in this house. I used this recipe and this tutorial with my 1M frosting tip to get the rose effect. It was my first time ever piping frosting and I never had a mess up. Super easy and quick! My only complaint was that I put too much red dye in my batch of pink frosting for the cupcakes and it turned out more coral than pink. At least I got the cake frosting right.

For the table layout, I used two desert towers from Joann’s to display the cupcakes. I didn’t really love the way the yellow and chocolate cupcakes looked side by side but this dilemma was unavoidable since I wanted people to be able to choose from two kinds of cupcakes. The cake was was just a simple two layer cake with frosting, sprinkles, and a target candle. The pictures were Hannah’s birth announcement and her 1 year announcement/invitation. How I love those Costco photo cards! And lastly, one of the table centerpieces, a tissue pom flower, so that the centerpieces on the tables would match the birthday table.

Hanging above the birthday table was a collage of Hannah’s first year month by month. I mounted 5×7 prints on scrapbook paper with double sided tape and then glued them onto posterboard. To make the garland, I traced and cut letters from my scrapbook paper scraps and glued them to a long piece of ribbon.

For the tables I made really simple but somewhat time consuming tissue poms. There are a bazillion tutorials out there, but I came across this video on youtube, which was pretty straightforward and easy to follow. The vases were 79 cents at Ikea!

I didn’t really have a super cohesive theme, but I was sort of going for pink and yellow floral to match Hannah’s dress. Overall I’m pretty pleased with how things turned out. There were a few bumps in the road along the way but I’m just glad that I got everything done and that we had a lot of fun celebrating Hannah’s first year!


Sewing Supplies Cart

Over past eight or so months that I have been sewing for my little one, I have quickly accumulated a pretty sizable stash of sewing supplies and fabric. But due to the limited space in our apartment, my sewing stuff never really had a permanent or organized home…until now!

While looking for shelving units online to organize our storage closet, I came across some really great rolling carts. I realized that this was perfect for my sewing supplies! I don’t want them to be anywhere Hannah can get to—she’s reveling in this new walking phase and has used her newfound freedom to open every single drawer and cabinet and empty the contents with zeal while I chase after her trying to pick it all up—but I want to be able to quickly and easily access my supplies while I’m sewing and she’s napping or down for the night. A rolling cart is the perfect compromise. I can keep the cart in the closet while she’s up and about, then roll it next to my sewing table while she’s asleep. Genius!

My cart is part of the Antonius closet storage system from Ikea. I was originally going to get the smaller four drawer cart but my wonderful husband talked me into getting the six drawer cart. It’s lucky he did because I’ve pretty much maxed out the storage capacity of each drawer. There are a few different options: no top or hard top, plastic bins or wire baskets, with or without castors. Mine has no top, wire baskets (I thought this would keep the fabric aired out and easily visible), and castors. I also got a basket insert to organize buttons, ribbon, etc. so that my sewing table is almost entirely bare except for my sewing machine and serger.

It took me many hours to sort through everything and put it all neatly away in the drawers but it was definitely worth it. I absolutely love my sewing supplies cart! I can now quickly and easily find what I’m looking for, not to mention, remember what I already have on hand but forgot about because it wasn’t visible or easily accessible.