Sunday, May 20, 2018

Baby Girl Shower

Confession: now that I have three boys and have been solely in the boy-camp for a lot of years now, I find myself completely and totally overwhelmed in the baby girl section of any store. I pretty much freeze and am unable to pick anything out for gifts. I am just so far out of my comfort zone. It's a little bit funny. In fact, the further away from having a baby I get, the more overwhelmed I am by the purchase of any baby stuff.
So, when I decided to co-host a baby shower for a friend who was having her first girl, I decided to make her gift from me be the diaper cake which served as the décor for the shower.
I had never made a diaper cake before, but decided to do some research and figure it out. It turned out to not be a big deal to construct. I had come up with how I wanted it to look, and went to work on it.
This cake required 118 diapers (two packs of 59 size 1 Babyganics diapers), a wood dowel cut into a couple of pieces the height of the cake for stability, a $2 charger plate from Michael's, a spool of ribbon, and 3 identical silk bouquets from a $5 bin at Michael's. The mother liked peonies, and the flowers I chose seemed like they could either pass as peonies or roses. I loved the color scheme - sort of peachy-pink, hot pink, and red.
To construct the cake:
1) Roll all diapers individually with a rubber band, tucking the colored band inside so that most of what is visible is just white diaper.

2) Then group the diapers in rounds, wrapping a rubber band around each ring. Create each of the three tiers this way.
(This is the bottom layer with the charger underneath.)
3) Stack them on top of the plate, individually.

4)Work the dowels down into the cake and cut them off so that they are flush with the top of the cake. The dowels keep the cake remarkably sturdy.

5) Wrap the ribbon around the center of each cake layer tightly, and hot glue the ribbons together, but if possible, do not hot glue to the diaper (it won't be usable which is not the end of the world, but not the goal).
6) Arrange the flowers around the cake and if necessary to anchor with glue, try to hot glue the flowers to the ribbon, instead of the diapers, again, so that the diapers remain functional.
And that's it! It looks great, makes a nice centerpiece, and gives the mom-to-be a boost on diapers! I'm totally going to make another one of these if I get the pleasure of hosting another shower one day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Break Out the Mos Eisley Canned Tuna! It's Star Wars Day Food!

A few days ago, knowing that May was fast-approaching, I asked my Facebook friends for ideas of what to serve my Star Wars-loving children on Star Wars Day (May the 4th). A very talented and awesome friend went to town with some amazing puns and got so into it she lost some sleep over it. Since lots of her friends wanted a way to pin her incredible list of ideas, I volunteered to post this absolutely amazing list on my blog so that many more people could partake of her exhaustive list.  So without further ado, here is the list of Star Wars food options - even lots of ethnic options! - to make all your May the 4th dreams come true (as posted to Facebook by the incredible Margaret Peterson):

"For all of your May the Fourth (Star Wars Day) dining needs:
If you’re in the mood for Italian there are many Wampas-tas to choose from: Boba Fetticinni, Obi-Wan Canolli, or Bow-tie Fighters. Or maybe you’d prefer Pizza the Hut*, Rey-sotto, or Poe-lenta.

French maybe? Try DeathStarGo, Coq au Finn, RataR2Dtouille, Princess Souffléia, Lardon Calrissian, Wilhuff Tartine, Cheese Fondooku, Macaron Solo, BouillaRebelBase, or Emperor PalpaGratin.

How about Indian? Darth Vada, Darth Dahl, Obi-wan Tandoori, Padmé A-masala, Laddu Calrissian, Rose Tikka, Lamb Finn-daloo, SaMos(Eisley)as, Cucumber Rey-ta, Padowan Papadum, Princess Lassi, Saag Poe-neer, aLuke Gobi, and Naan Solo (or maybe Alder-naan) are all good choices.

Would you rather eat Mexican? Try the Huevos Kylo Rencharros, Darth Verde, Maize Kanata, Rose Taco, Flan Solo*, Admiral Ackbar-itto, Barbacoa Fett, Poe-zole, Chile Rey-leno, EnchiLeia, Dulce de Luke, Darth Molé, Chewie-changa, Lando Chorizo-an, and EmpanYodas. Or go Tex-Mex with Fritos Stormscoopers and Seven-Leia Dip*.

Would Chinese hit the spot? WonTaunTauns (also known as Padowontons* or Obi-Wanton Kanobi), C3POrange Chicken, Rey-king Duck, Egg Foo Yung Padowan, ChewBakChoi, Mon Mothma-po-do-fu, Szechuan Solo, Fortune Wookies, Kung Poe Chicken, and Shark Finn Soup are all great dishes to make in your E-wok.

Or maybe Japanese food like Rey-men noodles, Supreme Leader Poke, Bento Solo, YakiYoda noodles, Udon Jinn, a Tatuna-ine Roll, General Leia Onigiri, Katsu Ren, or Tem-Poe-ra is more your style.
What if it’s just all Greek to you? Then try Tzatziki-Gon Jinn, Han-akopita, Count Dooku-scous, Hummus Eisley, Souv-Luke-i, Boba Ganoush, Philo Ren, Padmé Ama-dolma, Mox Moussakanata, and some Chewbaklava for dessert.

But what if you just want to eat at a good old American Diner? Start with some Chicken Finn-gers and Mashed Poe-tatoes. Or maybe you’d rather have X-chicken-wing fighters and some Fry Fighters. Admiral AckBar-B-Que, Darth Taters, Hoth Dogs, or an R2-DTuna Melt made with Mos Eisley Canned-tuna. Order an Iceberg Wedge Antilles Salad, Yodagurt, Endor-itos, or Watto-melon on the side. On the light side, try a Bagel-bah with Lox Kanata. Wash it all down with a Captain Fanta, Yoda Pop, Qui-Gon Jinn and Tonic, or Iced Emperor Palpa-tea. And for dessert, choose from Banantha Cream Pie or a big slice of Aunt Baru-barb pie.
Hope that got some Endor-phins flowing!
(most of these are from my demented brain, but the * ones were shamelessly stolen from other people, but I can't remember where I saw them- obviously, there are many people on the internet who have also independently come up with many of the other ones that I think are my creation, so I'm happy to be one of the great minds that thinks like you if I've inadvertently stolen them - MP)"

Some more random ones that I came up with:
Aunt Beru-berries, BB Tom-8-oes, Hoth Chocolate (served Luke warm???), Jakku-cumbers, Obi-Wan Corn-obi, Tuscan radishes. And of course, Calamari is always a good choice for May the 4th.

One of my son's lunches:
You can download a decently convincing-looking Star Wars font for free if you google "Free Star Wars Font." I just typed out these foodie-puns onto labels, added some Star Wars stickers, and voila! A very festive lunch.

For dinner, we went with a "Mexican" theme (in quotes, because what's more American than a burrito?).
 We had Admiral Akbar-itos. The ingredients were: Maize Kanata (a nice fresh salsa made with roasted corn, cilantro, onion, and green pepper), Lavender Cal-rice-ian (have you tried purple rice? If not, you should because it has great flavor - find it in bulk food sections in stores like Whole Foods), POE-rk, Han Solo Cream (lame, but it worked), C-3Pico, Cheese-bacca, Tractor Beans (a runner up was REY-fried beans), and Darth Verde sauce.
Also, we served Yoda Soda, which was a little bit of sprite with a small scoop of sherbet in it (I could only find rainbow, but lime sherbet would definitely work better).
Dessert was Storm Scoopers of the Dark Side Sundaes (AKA: dark chocolate ice cream) with a Wookie Cookie, and topped with Mace Whip Cream. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Believing in Grace

At church, I have been given the opportunity to work with the teenage girls of our congregation. As such, one of the things I take turns doing is teaching Sunday lessons. Since a minor stroke of genius occurred here, I decided to share it on the blog. Grace can sometimes be a tricky concept to understand in the LDS church, and so maybe someone out there will find this lesson idea (and accompanying handout I will post at the end) useful.
Introducing the Topic:
I'm going to start out my lesson with an object lesson that I'm pretty sure I found on Sugardoodle. I have bought a bounteous variety of candy and candy bars and I am going to lay them out on a table and tell the girls they are each fifty cents. Then I'm going to hand them a packet of coins to "buy" them with. Each girl will have a slightly different amount of money, but none of them will have fifty cents. The rule is that they can't share money. There has to be another way of getting to fifty cents. While they are looking in their packets of coins, I'm going to pull out some coins and lay them on the table by the candy bars. The point is for them to ask me for the money they need to make up the difference.
After everyone has their candy, we are going to dissect the heck out of this object lesson.
What do the candy bars represent?
What does the money they started with represent? (Including the shortfall.)
What does them asking me for money represent?
What does my money represent?
Why can't they share money?
Why am I so willing to give them both money and candy?
What if they were too afraid/embarrassed to ask me for money?

Read 2Nephi 4:17-21. Emphasize that Nephi wasn't a bad or wicked person and yet he still felt weighed down by sin. He chose to trust Christ, though, and that helped him feel supported in his afflictions and filled him with love. That thing that helped and supported him was grace.

It seems like grace is really easy to explain and understand when related to money. I also want to go over another great analogy for grace was written by Stephen E. Robinson (a professor at BYU that I took a New Testament class from a long time ago) called The Parable of the Bicycle. It can be found HERE. Also, if you've never read it, I highly recommend reading Believing Christ, which is the book he wrote that the story originally appears in. It is a very in-depth look at the Atonement including a whole lot of information on grace from many different angles.

Then we're going to talk about the difference in believing that Christ can help us attain salvation, and actually trusting him to make up for our shortcomings. We will probably also discuss what it means to attain perfection and also what it means to try our best to work towards it.

At the end, I'm going to send them home with a little reminder, because I truly believe that a lot of us struggle with the concept of grace - in that we don't allow ourselves to be imperfect and to need help to attain salvation. We are so hard on ourselves and we forget that Christ is there to partner with us and make up the difference.

I pieced this handout together from a few pieces of clipart I found on the web. For my class, in the blank space under the Young Women logo, I have added my signature as the "treasurer" of the bill. I removed that for the sake of posting it for the wide world.
Just right-click on the image to download it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bundt Cake a la Mario Bros.

This thing was such a labor of love that I don't have any photos of construction (my hands were mostly covered in sticky stuff), but if you are interested in creating a Mario Bros. themed cake, this might be some good inspiration. It wasn't too difficult, I'm just a fondant novice (first timer!) so I had to get the hang of it.
I enjoy "architecting" cakes. This time around, I decided to surprise my son. He asked for just a lemon bundt cake (my favorite recipe HERE). I thought I'd kick it up a notch.

How did I make this?

1) I bought a lovely green porcelain pot at the grocery store that fit perfectly in the center of the bundt cake. I filled it with pressed rice krispie treats, then covered that with Oreo crumbs. I used 8 bamboo skewers sticking out of that, and placed four green plastic straws (two skewers per straw) over the skewers.

2) I pressed rice krispie treats into two plastic rice bowls, then stuck them together to create a sphere. Then I rolled it a little more to make it extra round.

3) I cut out a pie-shaped wedge (sort of pacman style) out of the ball.

4) I covered it with red fondant and smoothed it out as best I could.

5) I filled the mouth area with pink fondant and then fashioned a tongue. To get one layer of fondant to stick to another, brush a VERY little water on the spot and it acts like glue.

6) I rolled out the green fondant and used it to cover the straws and make a couple of big leaves (if you make the leaves out of flat rolled out fondant, you can roll up a bunch of extra into little balls and sort of place them under the leaves to give them some dimension and hold them up a little so they don't look sad and wilted.

7) I cut a bunch of circles out of white fondant, then rolled out a big long tube of white (to go around the mouth). Then I cut out a bunch of triangles for teeth, doubling them up on the bottom half so they would stick up properly.

8) I placed the teeth on the mouth, then covered them with the white tube to shape the white lips.

9) I placed the head onto the skewers (keep that plant stem fairly short and make sure the skewers don't stick up more than a couple inches out of the top of the stem or else (as I found out the hard way) they will stick out the top of the head).

10) After the head is attached, add the spots. (You are getting the benefit of my hindsight wisdom here. I put them on before I attached the head and it was a big disaster that I had to rectify as best I could.)

And that is it! Even though it came out far from perfect, this is one of my favorite cake themes I've ever done. I just think this guy has so much character - just like my now 8yo!

(I had to re-do the stem because the first time it was too long to hold up the head. I actually liked it better shorter.)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Brunch Quiche and Dreams of Paris

The day before Easter, I bought two dozen medium eggs to boil and dye. I like to dye the medium eggs because they are cute and less of an investment - nobody here really likes hardboiled eggs. Our Saturday got away from us and we never had time to actually boil or dye eggs, and Sunday was even busier. I found myself with two dozen medium sized eggs in my fridge that needed to be used.
At the same time, I had a serious craving for ham with Herb de Provence. When I was in Paris last summer, we bought some ham at a local grocery store, just for making quick sandwiches with, and I was amazed at how amazing the flavor was simply because it was seasoned with a little Herb de Provence. It is such a wonderful aromatic combination of herbs (hello, lavender!), and seems to pair well with ham.
So, I decided to delight my husband with one of his favorite foods of all times, and make him a quiche that he could eat throughout the busy work week. I decided to experiment (because that's what I do!) and came up with my own quiche recipe, and let me tell you: this was the best quiche I have ever had. I HIGHLY recommend making it if you are a quiche-lover. It's definitely not low-calorie, but would be great at a brunch, or a protein-rich start to your day.
And because I'm not a huge fan of blogs that are so filled with photos of the food that you have to scroll forever to find the recipe, here it is right at the top, for your ease.

Ham and Herb de Provence Quiche
Preheat oven to 400*
1 pie crust prepared and in 9" pie plate
(I prefer homemade. An easy recipe is just 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup butter, a pinch of salt and sugar, and a couple tablespoons of very cold water - enough to get the dough to stick together. Add flour, butter, salt, sugar, and combine using a pastry cutter or fork until dough is sticking together in pea-sized chunks, add water little by little until dough sticks together. Form ball, chill for about 15 minutes before rolling out.)

12 medium eggs or 10 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 t Herb de Provence (you can find it in the bulk spice section of most higher-end grocery stores)
1 T finely chopped chives - more is not a bad thing if you feel like it (just use kitchen shears for ease)
1 cup fresh grated Jack cheese (yes, I know, not traditional Swiss like most quiche, but Jack is creamier, trust me)
1 cup chopped ham of your choice - the better quality, the better the flavor
2 T fresh parmesan cheese

1. In a large bowl, crack eggs, add heavy cream, and mustard, and blend with an immersion blender until it's a bit frothy - at least a minute, two is okay.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and gently combine so the cheese disperses (you don't want it all clumped up).
3. Pour egg mixture into pie crust. You can top with extra Jack cheese if you want.
4. Bake at 400* for 20 minutes, then turn oven down to 375* and bake for 25 more minutes (total of 45).
5. Pull it out, and give it a little jiggle. If it doesn't move, then double check by gently pressing down on the top middle. If it feels firm, take it out immediately and cool on a rack. You don't want to overcook a quiche - that's how it gets rubbery.
In this case, after 45 minutes, it was set, but the middle was a little soft when I cut into it. That actually makes it really delicious. This quiche has a very creamy texture.
Originally, I made this quiche mostly for my husband, but I ended up eating almost as much of it as he did. It was so good.
And since I'm really missing Paris, let's relive that trip with a couple of photos I took while I was there. It was glorious. I would go back tomorrow if I could. Maybe you can look at them and pretend you are in Paris while you eat the quiche. Au Revoir!
 (We were there for Bastille Day - this was shot from the balcony of our AirBNB.)
 (This is a Chateau in a tiny little town outside of Paris called Maintenon. So very Cinderella.)
 (This is inside the dome of Sacre Couer.)
(This is the Chateau Vaux le Vicomte - also a little ways outside of Paris and well worth a visit.)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Baked Raspberry Lemonade

I had the opportunity to make cupcakes for a friend's birthday recently and decided to experiment a little with a cupcake creation. It turned out amazing, and as far as I know (I confess I haven't scoured the web to see if an identical recipe exists), this is an original recipe. I modified my favorite yellow cake recipe into lemon cupcakes, with a fresh raspberry filling and a lemon buttercream frosting.
These are a little bit of work, but they are really delicious and anything but dry and boring. They taste like a little bit of summer in your dessert!
One of the things I hate most on recipe blogs is having to scroll WAY down to the bottom to find the recipe, so let's just dive right in! (Photos at the bottom.)

Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes - makes 12
Preheat oven to 350*
1/2 c coconut oil (melted)
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs (separated)
zest of one large lemon
juice of half lemon
1/4 t salt
3/4 t baking powder
1-1/2 c flour
1/2 c buttermilk

1. In a stand mixer, cream coconut oil and sugar until well combined and a little fluffy.
2. Add vanilla, both egg yolks, zest of lemon, juice of lemon and mix to combine.
3. Add salt, baking powder, half of flour, and mix until just combined.
4. Add half of milk, mix until just combine.
5. Add second half of flour, mix until just combined.
6. Add second half of milk, mix until just combined.
7. Add egg whites and gently fold until just combined.
8. Scoop into 12 muffin tins with liners - spread batter evenly between cups, should be filled a little past half-way point.
9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cupcake comes out clean. I like to really baby them those last couple of minutes in the oven to make sure they don't get dry.
10. Let cool on wire rack while making filling and frosting.

Raspberry filling:
1 6oz package of fresh raspberries, cleaned
juice of half lemon
1/4-1/2 c sugar, depending on how sweet you want it - I like it more tart
1/4 c cold water
1 T corn starch
1/4 c heavy whipping cream


1. In a small saucepan on the stove, add raspberries, lemon juice, sugar. Bring to a gentle boil and stir occasionally until the raspberries have dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken a bit.
2. Pour mixture through a strainer to remove most of the seeds (I like a few seeds in the final mix, because it feels more authentically raspberry, but I add back in maybe a teaspoon full). Place mixture back into saucepan and back on stove, back onto about medium heat.
3. Mix cold water with corn starch. Add mixture to saucepan and whisk until thoroughly combined - this might take some vigorous mixing to make sure the cornstarch doesn't clump. Boil until mixture becomes thick, remove from heat. Cool until about room temperature.
4. Add heavy cream to mixture, and beat using an immersion blender to whip the cream a bit, until well combined and a little thicker.

2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter
zest of one lemon (If you don't want really lemony frosting, omit the zest for a more delicate flavor)
juice of half lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
Remaining raspberry filling (I had about a teaspoon left after filling cupcakes)

1. In stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine remaining raspberry filling, powdered sugar, butter. (The little bit of raspberry filling will give the frosting a nice, delicate pale pink color to the frosting.)
2. Add zest, lemon juice, vanilla, combine again.
3. Add heavy cream and whip on high until frosting gets nice and fluffy. (If it appears to curdle slightly, just whip it a little longer. Chances are pretty good it will actually be pretty smooth when spread with a knife or spatula.)

1. Cut a cone-shaped chunk out of the top of each cupcake (see photo below), then gently cut the point off.
2. Scoop raspberry filling into hole, filling almost to the top, and replace the top of the cupcake (again, as shown). You don't want the filling to ooze out of the top.
3. Pipe frosting however you desire. Top with fresh raspberry! (I was testing out a new tip and I definitely need more practice with it.)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Beautiful Auction Art

As I mentioned in the previous post, our elementary school raises most of its PTA money through a big auction. One of the elements of the auction are individual class projects. These seem to go for quite a bit of money, so there's a little bit of pressure when creating them. I had a fun time doing one of them last year for my son's kindergarten class. This year, I decided to help my other son's third grade teacher with their project. She really wanted to the auction project to be relevant to their current curriculum, so they could possibly use parts of the art project for other assignments in class. After doing a bunch of research looking for ideas, I got my inspiration. We would do a sort of mosaic of drawings and turn it into a poster.
1. I created a square in photoshop and then had a bunch printed out, so each child in the class could make two or three drawings. (Feel free to click on it and download it.)

2. The teacher decided on a theme: in this case, we went botanical, and the kids drew plants, flowers, and berries from a specific region they were studying in class. I could see lots of other potential ideas: animals, elements of the local city, fish, patterns, self-portraits, etc.
3. Each child drew two or three plants, colored them with colored pencil, then outlined the drawings with a fine sharpie.
4. I scanned all of the pictures and brought them into photoshop.
5. I created the big grid in photoshop - the full-size poster with empty squares laid out the way I wanted it.
6. I brought in each picture and placed them in the empty grid, making sure to mix up the drawings because there were duplicates.
7. I brought the grid layer to the top, and switched it to the multiply layer setting so that the drawings would be visible underneath it.
8. I cleaned up any stray colored pencil lines, and erased any drawing parts that fell outside the grid lines.
9. I added the description text at the bottom.
10. I had it printed through

One thing I like about doing auction projects digitally is that they can be reproduced. If an auction project is popular, the PTA can decide to sell a second or third copy for the same price as the first was bid on and double their money. These projects also make excellent end-of-year teacher gifts, or they have the possibility of being permanently displayed somewhere in the school.
The teacher was able to use the scanned drawings for relevant reports the kids were working on, as well as to make some cute thank you notes for a guest visitor to their classroom.