Evertaster

I am wondering when Ashleigh is going to kick me off the blog by cutting her hair short, wearing a black pant suit and shouting "YOU ARE the Weakest Link!"
(Did you get a visual there, and a little flashback from a decade ago?) Sorry Ash, I promise to make something cute worth posting any second now.....

While I wait for inspiration to strike, I will read.

I have always loved reading. I hope to someday find the list I made the summer after fourth grade of all the books I read. I'm pretty sure it was written in crayon on a manilla folder. Thank goodness now I have Goodreads to keep track of books I read.

I love to get my kids involved in pure enjoyment books for the Summer. It's so fun to read the same books as my teenagers and I am all springy inside when they ask if they can borrow a book when I am done with it. I like to spend time reading to the little ones but it has to be on my terms. They can read Dork Diaries on their own, but if I'm reading aloud, I want to be engrossed in the book too. I the past we have spent a summer reading Series of Unfortunate Events, Chronicles of Narnia, Beverly Cleary books, Roald Dahl, Holes, and of course, Harry Potter.

But this summer we are reading.....



....because....

A. It's a book about food! Hello.... I love food! The website says... "What if there were a taste so delicious that if you found it, you’d never want to eat anything else again?" Read the synopsis of the story from the Evertaster website! I'm thinking we will definitely need snacks while we read Evertaster!

B. Evertaster is written for middle grades, ages 8-12. Perfect for me to read to my elementary kids ages 11, 8, and 6.

C. The author, Adam Glendon Sidwell, is a friend of ours. He went to school with Ashleigh, he is hilarious and one of the most creative people we know!

About the author from the Evertaster website
"In between books, Adam Glendon Sidwell uses the power of computers to make monsters, robots and zombies come to life for blockbuster movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Transformers and Tron. After spending countless hours in front of a keyboard meticulously adjusting tentacles, calibrating hydraulics, and brushing monkey fur, he is delighted at the prospect of modifying his creations with the flick of a few deftly placed adjectives. He’s been eating food since age 7, so feels very qualified to write this book. He once showed a famous movie star where the bathroom was. Adam currently lives in Los Angeles, where he can’t wait to fall into the sea."

If you don't already want to read Evertaster immediately, look at Adam and his wife, Michelle. They are adorable!


So while you wait until June 14th when Evertaster is released let me know what books you read with your kids during the summer! We have a lot of hours to fill!


Graduation Hats

Do you have a graduate to celebrate?  

How about some simple graduation hat cookies?
I shared the step by step tutorial for Graduation hat cookies on Skip to my Lou, then here on this post!


If you're wrapping these up and making them a favor,
 be sure to check out these printable tags I made for grads!  



Brace Face Cookies

We've had an exciting event at our house.

My daughter declared it one of the best days of her life...she got braces!

So naturally, I made cookies to celebrate!
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I've made these before, (posted here) for someone else,
but I had to revisit this cookie when it was my daughter's big day for braces!
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I've actually had several emails asking me for tips on how to make this cookie, so I took pictures along the way this time to show you the 6 step frosting process.  Yes, these aren't for the faint of heart.  They take some dedication, but the results are so fun!

*Here is a link to my recipes and general cookie "how to's" for beginners.  For the red and white frosting, I used a medium-stiff consistency (about a 15 seconds).
*The first time, I cut these cookies out by hand, but this time, I used my mustache cutter, upside down, and bent a little into a smile.  :)  To make them on sticks, you just need to insert the stick before you bake it, when the dough is still cold and firm, so as not to distort your cookie.
Step 1: Make your red lips, then let these dry for several hours.  Red is one of the colors that bleeds a lot, so if I'm piping white right next to it, I make sure it's good and dry.
Steps 2-5: I start on the bottom because when I started on top, I ended up with a bit of an under bite.  And the biggest trick is to do every other tooth, then let it dry for 10-15 min.  This makes them look like separate, individual teeth.  When I pipe them out, I use a toothpick to drag the corners of the frosting into the best tooth shape that I can make.  Then of course let it dry again and start on the top.  You can easily "eyeball" where the teeth should go.
Step 6- After all the teeth are dry, I use a stiff consistency icing with a #1/1.5 tip.  I draw the two lines for each bracket, then connect them with a wire.
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The best news is, the teeth don't really have to be perfect or straight, because they are getting braces!  This is the kind of "fraggle rock" situation that braces can take care of!
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Lucky for us, we know a great orthodontist!  (Who I just happen to work for!)  And yes, I was the obnoxious mom taking pictures every step of the way.  This was a very "project life" moment!
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We brought these in for the staff and then I sent some to school with her after the appointment, so she could share and celebrate with her friends.
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And just for kicks, we took some reverse before and after pictures.


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I can't wait to see the result of the real "after" pictures.
(I'll be sure to make another brace-less cookie for that picture!)

But until that day, this is one happy girl to be wearing braces!

Gillette Venus Embrace- Review

I'm trying to figure this parenting thing out.
For a while, my big decisions were when to start solid foods and which preschool to send her to.  As time goes on, the dilemmas keep piling up:
When do I let her get her ears pierced?
When should I let her do her own hair?
What age should she get her own cell phone? Is texting a different story?
When should she be allowed to shave her legs?
When do I let her wear makeup?
I'm trying to find the right balance between not letting her grow up too fast and†not smothering her and following her from class to class in high school as I cry about how grown up she is.
After I figure it all out, I want to make sure she knows where I stand on all of this, and that we talk about expectations.  I'm so glad that she seems open and willing to talk to me about the details of her life and I talk pretty candidly with her about all of these things.
She's really excited about each new milestone, so when we were asked to review the Venus Embrace and Satin Care Passionista Fruit,she wasted no time giving me her opinion.

She loved the shaving cream and the sparkling, fruity scent.  She also said it made her legs feel extra soft and smooth!
She said, "Can you buy that kind from now on?"
I have to say I was impressed, too!  It really does make your legs so much softer and Satin Care Passionista Fruit smells awesome!
The Venus Embrace razor really was different from others I have used.It felt very safe with a no-slip grip, yet really effective with five small blades.
This little review experience got us chatting, and it was fun to talk about what we liked about it.
Well, I donít know when I turned around and all of this happened?
{sniff sniff}

All of a sudden she is a darling grown up girl!But I sure love the fun, determined, responsible girl sheís growing up to be!



Time really flies, so Iím going to try not to stress too much and just enjoy it!  And so far, sheís happy with just the lip gloss!:)
As part of this review, Venus is giving away a $50 Visa gift card!To enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment or tip for tackling tough ìfirstsî conversations with your kids!
Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 5/21 - 6/30
Be sure to visit the Venus Brand feature page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggersí reviews and find more chances to win!! If you have a first-time shaver in your home, you should check out some of these great tips from Venus Embrace!

A Sweet Surprise

Remember the newlywed years?

Life before kids?

No?

Me neither.
(I'm kidding.  I totally remember they years when I thought I was in charge).

Luckily I have some darling newlywed friends who remind me to be blissfully in love, super snuggly, and incredibly thoughtful of my spouse.  I recently got to be a part of one of these sweet moments.

Elease messaged me a month before her husband's birthday, saying she wanted to plan a special surprise for Joel's birthday.  She wanted to bring a treat into his work, but wanted it to be something unique, something he could easily share with his co-workers and of course, something he'd like.

We decided on cake pops.
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Adorable, right?  How sweet are they?
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So instead of having a cake to write happy birthday on, I decided to make a custom cake pop stand to write happy birthday on.  I pretty much did the same thing as I did on my halloween stands, but used a wider board so I could fit 3 rows.
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The cake pops cover it up a little, but as they get eaten, the birthday message is clear!
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I wanted this pop stand to be manly, rustic and beachy.  Totally different than my polkadot ones.
And for the pops, I went with an ombre look.  I used blue candy melts, then for the next batch, mixed blue and white, then for the next batch used even more white.  We made the stand fit 40+ pops because that is the number of coworkers she wanted to "treat."
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After the embarrassing sweet surprise, complete with pomp and circumstance,  the pops went in the break room for all to enjoy.  And I'm told, they did enjoy them!
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Isn't this just a sweet story?

Doesn't it make you want to go spoil/surprise your spouse?

Elease and Joel are some of my favorite people!  You can get to know them on their adorable blog: http://www.thelittlelovebirds.blogspot.com/  Their blog inspires me to treasure life and most of all, love.


{Boom}

Strawberry Cake

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I'd share a recipe from my mom's collection.
This is one that she really liked, simple and yummy!

Only, I had to put a little twist on it.  I've seen so many adorable desserts in a jar (like on Our Best Bites), I thought this one would work well in darling, individual portions.
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For the cake:  My mom used to use a betty crocker white cake mix, which is good and easy!  I have made it with this, with the cake mix, a pound cake recipe, a vanilla cupcake recipe, and this time I used Martha's white cake.  I use my ice cream scoop that is a little bigger than the regular cupcake size.
For the cream cheese filling:  Whip up 8 oz. of cream cheese with 2 cups powdered sugar. Add to that, 12 oz cool whip or 1 pt. freshly whipped cream.  (I prefer the real whipped cream).
For the strawberry layer:  Mix 1 pkg of Danish dessert (strawberry flavor) with 2 cups cold water.  Then heat it in a saucepan, bringing to a boil and stirring with a whisk.  Let it boil for one minute.  After it cools, add 2-3 cups of chopped strawberries.
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Tips:
Here is a picture of the danish dessert, so you know what you're looking for at the store.  :)
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My mom used to make this recipe in two 9x13 pans.  Using half the ingredients in each pan.   I found that with the half pint jar, it made about 20 jars worth, with a bit of filling and strawberry left.
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When you fill the jars, use ice cream scoops and try not to get any on the sides of the jar.  Can you see where there is a little cake batter streak on one of these?  Also, I used a different ice cream scoop to put the filling in, then I used a spoon to flatten it out, trying not to get cream on the top part of the jar.  The cake domes a little and I could've trimmed it so it was perfectly flat, but it didn't bother me when you couldn't tell from the outside of the jar.
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The only trick when putting the top layer in was not to overfill.  I wanted just enough so it was totally full, but not spilling over when I put the canning lid on.
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After I put the metal lid on, I put a piece of cut cardstock on then screwed the rest of the lid on.
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I fancied them up with a little paper embellishment and some lace.  I stuck it to the blue paper with a little dab of hot glue.  It looks homey, and feminine and perfect for mother's day, I think.  And I think my mom would've loved the idea of this cake in a little jar!
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As we've talked about before, Kathryn and I lost our mom to cancer 10 years ago now.  Mother's Day is pretty bitter sweet for me.  I miss her dearly and my heart aches when I think that my kids are missing out on knowing her and learning from her many talents.  I try to keep her memory and legacy present in my life and tell my kids stories about how fun she was, how proud she would be of them and all the ways she would be spoiling them.  My oldest was the only one to know her and this picture was taken shortly before she passed away.   She keeps her picture of "grammie" in her room.
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A couple of weeks ago, I found this note in an old random file.  It's not dated, but I assume I was probably 12-14ish as determined by the "dot letter" signature and thanks with an "x."  I cried and had a moment when I read this.  I was just so glad that sometime in between my teenage mood swings, I told her how much I loved her.  She truly was a wonderful example of creativity, a positive attitude, working hard, living the gospel, learning new things, and always laughing along the way!  Most of all she taught me there is a huge amount of joy to be had in being a mother and in life in general.
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Whenever I get sad, I always quickly remind myself that I am incredibly blessed to have had her as my mother.  I got 23 years to learn from her!  I'd have to say the glass is half full!

And my heart, will always be overflowing with love for her.

Good News, Bad News

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

The good news?

Okay, well...  

(No, I'm not pregnant)
The good news is that I went through my pictures and found some random treats that I haven't shared with you yet.  These tiny footprint cookies I made for a baby shower do make me majorly baby hungry.  
So lets move on before I dwell on my pity.  THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS SEGMENT for pete's sake!

The good news is that these simple monogram cookies were made in celebration of some adorable newlyweds.  As you can see, my favorite cookie cutter set is getting some mileage.  My circle/scalloped circle set is still my complete fave!  I bought mine locally, but it is several dollars cheaper on amazon.  So I hooked you up with a link in our amazon shop (sidebar).

These little dress cookies were kinda fun.  I used fondant for the tiny rosette.  You know I tread lightly with fondant since our break-up.  But really, we're on pretty good terms now.  Time heals all pain.   

I've talked about royal icing transfers a lot lately.  It's kind of a kick.  And I think these little candy ones are my very favorites yet!  I'm sad that I don't have a pic of them on the cupcake, with the matching cookies and cake pops.  But again, it is still the good news segment, so I will focus on the positive. These transfers turned out great!

Now for the baaaaaaaaaaaaaad news.

Just look.

My most loved kitchen toy has seen it's last day.  My glass bowl for my kitchen aid mixer got knocked out by my mean old granite countertops.

I'm going to have to re-visit my little amazon shop to get a new one, if I can justify splurging one more time.  But until then, I miss the pour spout for filling my royal icing bottles.  I miss seeing if there is something not mixed in.  And the measurements on the side.  And I miss how beautiful she was on my counter-top.

I know that if this is my bad news, then life is good.  (Life is in fact, really great.)  But I just needed a few condolences from my baking friends who understand a love for kitchenware.  :)

Luau Cupcakes

This is my version of a Luau cupcake.

I had to find a way to make some sort of tropical flower (hibiscus-like).  I know you can buy pre-made gum-paste flowers (like I bought for this luau cake I made years ago) but they are about $2.50 each and the center really isn't edible!  Not too many people eat the garnish, but when you're serving kids, there is a possibility.  So I set out to make an edible, fairly simple tropical flower.

And this is what I ended up with...
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My method was called, "trial and error" or "I am determined to make this work so I don't have to spend $2.50 per flower."  I simply rolled out wilton gum-paste, and cut a smallish, 5 petal flower.  Then I used a tool called "the wrong end of a paintbrush" and thinned out the edges of the petals, making them frill, and curl.  Then I pressed each petal onto this wilton flower forming thing to give it the veins.  Then I set them in an empty egg carton to dry.   I did have to spend about $32.00 for these few things, but I would've spent $350.00 buying them premade at $2.50 each.  So, I felt pretty good about it.
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After they dried, I used royal icing and the "brush embroidery" method to color the center of the flower.  Then I used a different color royal icing to make the pistil and a made a few yellow dots of pollen.  These aren't quite scientifically correct, but I think they get the point across.

On a huge tray, they looked like a tropical flower oasis, so I'm considering my goals met!
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