Insta Friday

Here's what I've been up to according to instagram:

I got some time away with the fam at the boardwalk. 

The kids played at the beach.

But my oldest thought she was too cool for school.  Whatev.

Then again, I was quite self-indulgent with my beach time too.  

We pulled off a successful Lemonade Stand birthday party.  
I'll be sharing the deets here on the blog soon!

Umm.  My kids are weird.  And my sister's kids too.  
But we are weird, so what can you expect?

But there are certain moments when you feel like you are actually doing a good job as a parent.  When my daughters bring me breakfast in bed and they know it is important to keep the syrup separate and HOT until consumption... well that's when I know I'm raising them right.  

I put this fortune cookie on my wall.  Because I need a reminder to ACT on the things in my head!
That includes blogging the ideas in my head.  I'm pretty sure this little paper was meant for me.  
For now, most of my creativity remains in my head.  It's of no use there.  :(

Maybe I've been spending too much time with my boyfriend/therapist.  
This is my current method of procrastination.  

 But most of my time the past several weeks is spent with my kids activities.  
Swim team...


And Volleyball games.  (along with a million other things... craziness)
I'm squeezing in time with my online photography class and practicing when I can.  

And I'm going to end this insta-session with a confession.  You know how I told you my goal in January was to get my craft room organized?  Well, the opposite is happening.  

I need to be submitted to the TV show "Intervention" or "Hoarders."
Where do I apply?

And also... I'm excited to be guest posting on eighteen25 today for their spooktacular event!
You must check out the fabulous halloween ideas they have gathered from bloggers everywhere!

The Cake That Almost Killed Me

I made a wedding cake.


I still can't decide if I'm glad I did it.  Part of me feels accomplished and proud.  The other part of me thinks it didn't turn out perfect and I almost lost my mind, so it was the dumbest decision ever.  
(Hmmm.... glass half full or half empty?)

A friend asked me to do this months ago.  A friend that has way more faith in me than I do. 
 First I said no, then avoided the subject, but I finally caved and committed.  I spoke with the bride and she was easygoing (whew!).  She didn't want anything too fancy, but did want fondant.  I don't have a healthy relationship with fondant (read this post).  In fact, we broke up.  So this task required repairing my strained relationship with fondant.  Getting back together seemed great at first.  I made a practice cake and it turned out okay.  Not perfection, but my edges were sharp, the square was, well square and the level was spot on. 

But for some reason, just thinking about this cake gave me anxiety like I've never had before.  I'm talking insomnia, loss of appetite, messy house, cold sweats, wanted to hide, wanted to quit, etc.  I was certifiable at the point of actually covering the cake.  The good news was that my husband was out of town the whole weekend so he didn't have to wittiness the crazy and still wants to be married.  

When it came down to it, I had major cracking issues with the fondant.  I ended up covering each layer 3 times each, wasting a lot of fondant and re-sharpening the crumb coat between each time.  I tried to work fast but still had those issues I didn't have on my practice cake or any other cake for that matter.  I don't know if I just psyched myself out or what the reason was, but I had issues.  Because of the edges tendency to crack, the more I tried to sharpen them and make them perfect, the worse it got.  So my final product was not near as sharp or as awesome as I wanted it to be.  It wasn't an epic fail but I wouldn't really call it a success either.  :(

My only saving grace was the 200 cupcakes that made the whole presentation better.  
And I used my fave cake stands (tutorial here) at the bride's request.  

I also made some fun little flags for the chocolate cupcakes.  The other two flavors of cupcakes had some different flowers made out of modeling chocolate.  Unfortunately I only snapped a few phone pics of this whole debacle and these pics are all I've got.    

So that's the story.  
And at the end of it, I HAD to question my sanity in committing to something I had no business doing. 
I'm not very good at cakes!  Why do I feel the need to push myself beyond my abilities?

ANSWER:  I blame my childhood.
Specifically, I blame my mom.  

She somehow raised me to believe in myself.  To know -without a doubt- that I can do ANYTHING I decide I can do.  She told me for as long as I could remember that there was something special about me.  She praised my talents, encouraged my education and valued all of the simple accomplishments along the way.  She was an amazing example of living life to it's fullest and taking opportunities as they come.  Most importantly she helped me understand that failure is part of the learning process.

My mom has been gone for more than 10 years now, but her belief in me remains.  I think she would have been proud of my attempt at this project.  She might have laughed at me and sent me to therapy, but she would have been proud.  I'm so thankful for her, and the other people in my life who believe in me.  Yes, this cake ALMOST killed me, but "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  

I'm ready for another challenge.  

Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

Let me introduce you to my current happiness...

As far as pancakes go, this is the best experience I've had.
(I might add that this experience was also part of a spoiled breakfast in bed morning).
Even so, the pancakes can hold their own without the pomp and circumstance!

Around here, a recipe is the king, until it is dethroned by a new fave.  This has been my favorite pancake recipe for a few months now, after it took down my previous staple recipe.  It will remain my fave until I find another to challenge it.  :)  Or until forever.  Because it could be my fave for eternity.
(My husband came up with this after changing a couple things on an old recipe).

For the batter:
2 c (sifted) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
(sift dry together)
2 eggs
2 c buttermilk

Pretty Please:
*Don't over mix.  Just mix until it's blended, not perfectly smooth but without big chunks of flour.
*Cook on a cast iron skillet with 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp oil melted together in it first.  The cast iron holds the heat better and I know on my electric griddle, you aren't supposed to use a lot of oils.

That butter (and oil to lower the likelihood of the butter burning) gives it an incredible light crunch on the outer edges.  It's subtle, but it changes everything.  I've made this recipe on my nonstick electric griddle with no butter/oil, NOT the same.  Good, but not crazy good.

Now we're going to up the anti even more by topping these beauties with a yummy blueberry syrup.
It's yummy and EASY!  Even yummier when blueberries are in season at your local fruit stand.  It's almost ridiculous how sweet these things are!  Gah!  I'm obsessed!

You are simply going to bring 1 cup of real maple syrup to a simmer.  Then add the juice of half a lemon and 1 cup of fresh blueberries.  Bring to a low boil, stirring as those berries cook down a little (2 min or so).  Then I grab my potato masher and give them 6ish good smashes.

I like to leave it pretty chunky.  You can use an immersion blender or put it in a blender to really smooth it out, but I like it sort of chunky looking, with about half the berries left in tact.

Yep, just 3 ingredients to a luxurious looking topping!

The combination of my favorite pancakes and my favorite syrup is a match made in heaven I tell ya!

I also love dropping a few blueberries in this pancake recipe but I think just adding the syrup is the perfect amount for me.

Not this little man though.  He requests blueberry pancakes AND blueberry syrup.  He makes a purple mess, on his plate and mouth showing how much he enjoyed it.

Review- Chuck E. Cheese's

I was excited to take a recent trip to Chuck E. Cheese's to write a review!
My son has never been, so happy that I'm a blogger! We are already fans!
Needless to say, my kids had an all out blast there. They have games that are geared toward the younger kids and ones that are more advanced. (Ahem. My 15 year old nephew was quite enjoying himself there last time he went). There is a huge variety of games and a play place that can entertain them for hours-literally. With yummy pizza and "free refills" added on top of that, my kids would do about 500 chores for the chance at going there.
On this occasion, my son's two favorite things were the baseball game,
and the picture taking station that printed out an ID card! He got 4!
And we even got to visit with Chuck E. Cheese himself! He's a celebrity around there!
As a mom, there are other things I look for when I'm visiting a "play place."
Safety: Chuck E. Cheese's has a great safety system and as you enter, you check in with a special stamp that matches you to your child. Then they make sure that everyone who comes together, leaves together. I can also sit and enjoy my food with friends and easily see the whole play area and keep my eye on my littles.
Cleanliness: The Chuck E. Cheese's in my town is kept very clean and has been well maintained. It is much cleaner than many other play places I brave with the kids and I've always been impressed with it in this regard.
Affordable: This is a place that doesn't break the bank! Every ride is only one token so the tokens lasted my little guy for a long time.
And for me, Chuck E. Cheese's brings back memories and makes me a little nostalgic. I loved going there when I was a kid and now my little rascals love it! I can become "the best mom ever" when I treat my kids to a trip there. I like to go on the weekdays when it is less crowded and I can invite a friend to chat with while the kids play. My sister's friends have a fun tradition where they go with a big group of kids and moms on the day before school starts. The kids look forward to it all summer. But whether it's an occasion, or any given Tuesday, the kids LOVE it there!
For more information, visit Chuck E. Cheese's website and stay connected by liking Chuck E. Cheese's page on Facebook.

As part of my review, I get to give away a $100 Chuck E. Cheese's Gift Card to one of you! I love giving stuff away to you guys! One of you will be a hero to your kids now too! Just leave a comment answering, "Why does your family love Chuck E.Cheese's?"

Giveaway 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 (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: ""#SweepstakesEntry""; 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 9/4/2012-10/4/2012.

Be sure to visit the Chuck E. Cheese's brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

"Bowls of Stuff" Sundaes

Ok so maybe I haven't "sold" this dessert under that name. I can hear you clicking to Our Best Bites as we speak. And, I realize I may never have a career in marketing.

But on...


This dessert was born at my house eons ago and it was an instant hit with my people. The very next night, Ashleigh and her people came over. I was so excited because I knew I had leftovers of the "stuff" that goes on this ice cream sundae. It's hard to impress the foodies but I was up for the challenge. I went to the kitchen to serve up our new favorite and the "bowls of stuff" were gone. I asked my husband where the "bowls of stuff" were. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I started to have a mini panic attack and said "bowls of stuff" you know, the "bowls of stuff" that were on the counter? As I kept asking, my voice got higher and higher and Ashleigh was cracking up. The sad news was finally revealed that in his dishwashing efficiency the "bowls of stuff" were gone.

A moment of silence for the "bowls of stuff."


I had to instruct the hubby that one never throws away chocolate in any form. Nor peanuts and pretzels.

The recipe is as follows:
King size Hershey Bar

Chop em up, put them in desired proportions with vanilla ice cream, top with chocolate syrup. Layer in cute sundae cups (or just put it in a lime green plastic bowl that may or may not have been used to feed the dog- TMI).


Either way it is heaven.

P.S. You are allowed to call this something other than "bowls of stuff." That name might only be funny to Ashleigh and I. Let me know what you come up with. :)
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