Princess Bella’s Birthday Soiree, with a Polka Dot Cake and More!

Crown

I can’t believe that Princess Bella’s Birthday Soiree was already two days ago!  I have been fixin’ to get ready to post some pics since then, but so many other happenings kept happening!

So let’s get straight down to it.

The cake.  Oh, wow, what can I say.  The hubby is the most brilliant, wonderfully creative, enabling kind of guy.  I know this is all about Bella’s birthday and the cake and stuff, but I just have to say super quickly, my hubby rocks!  He doesn’t ever try to damper my whacky party ideas, he doesn’t try to bring me down to Earth and tell me I can’t do anything.  He actually jumps right in and has a blast with me, and even goes so far as to make it even more awesome than I had imagined!!!

Okay, so back to the cake.  I wanted some kind of cake befitting the Royal Princess (ya know, I hope that doesn’t start sounding like we do nothing but spoil our children, although we might, Bella just really was born in to this world to command it, her personality!)…and it needed to be a total girl cake.

And here’s how it finished up:

Cake

And here’s what was in the middle:

Cake Balls Baked

I know, polka dots!  That is all Christopher’s doing.  I’ll include here a couple of pics of how to polka dots were put together, I might come back later and do a super-quick how-to on that whole thing 🙂

Cake Balls Cake Balls 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But on to the Birthday Banner.  That has become some kind of tradition in our home, at least the kids think that they are supposed to have a banner now for every birthday and holiday event.  My fault…so this time around I just started grabbing stuff out of my fabric stash and throwing it into the sewing machine.  And the kids colored the crown cut-outs to add as decorations.

Swag

Swag 2

Swag 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, that’s some of my paintings on the wall, Bella wouldn’t let me move them for the party!

Now, the party favors.  We don’t do huge parties with all kinds of kids and people over.  Remembering our kidlets are home-schooled, so we don’t have to outdo all of the birthday parties of the whole kindergarten.  We do have a couple of buddies that play with ours just about every day, so we have them over with a couple of close friends.  So I don’t have to put together an enormous pile of party favor loot.  I got to really go for it 🙂

Party Favors

I made the treat bags out of pieces of denim from my stash, all from old pairs of blue jeans.  Jeans that have been outgrown, jeans that have gotten holes in the knees, jeans that finally have too much paint to wear in the light of day.  And I used boys’ jeans and girls’ jeans.  Some had sections that I could use as a whole piece, and some I had to piece together with patches from other pieces.  I also frayed the edges of everything a bit and left the seams on the outside.  For handles, I used lace and ribbons from the stash box.

Party Favors 3I worried throughout the week as I made the little bags, by the way.  I kept thinking they were looking dumb, or that they were a bad idea, just like going through hating some other piece of art I’m creating.  Not sure why I’d get away with it on party favors…

But I just kept sewing, and as the kids were in and out all week, they’d see the little bags coming together.  They were so excited when they finally got to have their little homemade artsy bag creation!  And they’ve been carrying them around with them since, including the neighbor kids!  They’ve all got the little journals I made them stuffed in the bags, along with video games and plastic jewelry and doodads and candy…they just carry their little things in them, even the boys!  It also helped that the bags had lollipops and ring pops and tootsie rolls and starbursts and plastic gemstone rings, too.

Here’s a quick peek at the journals I made them, a la clear packing tape and rubber bands (like the duct tape journals you see all over the place) and patterned papers and cardboard-painted covers.  And just like with the bags, the kids all watched me making the little books and squawked with delight when they finally got their hands on them and could start drawing in them!

Journal cover Journal cover 2 Journal inside

We cooked out burgers, and ate yummies and cake and ice cream, and Princess Bella delighted in all of the rightful attention she was getting.  And everyone showered her with gifts of love and sparkles, a whole pile of dress-up fodder…which she has been donning and trying on and admiring and wearing for the paparazzi.

It’s funny.  I didn’t have to run out and buy anything to do all of this preparation.  I just dug around in my boxes and bins of stashed fodder…so much of it was recycled material, or free craigslist stuff, or thrift store finds saved for a rainy day.  I spent a lot of time, and put a ton of love into it all, but not so much in monies.  But this will be one of those birthdays she’s gonna remember as one of the most magical and love-filled parties ever!

 

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Happy I Love You Day! Get in the Swing of Things!

Baby, I’m amazed at the way you help me sing my song,

You right me when I’m wrong,

Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.

~ Paul McCartney

Cuppie Cakes 5

 

Happy I Love You Day is here!  My little kidlets made it all the way till after breakfast before swapping their sweet little Valentine cards with us and each other…and we already had to get into the cupcakes, as soon as breakfast was over 🙂

Cuppie Cakes 2

 

 

And before the giant, teen-aged boy left for school this morning, I slipped a little booklet of Valentine jokes in his lunch.  Oh, and marshmallows (we’re not sure who’s kid he really is, he doesn’t like chocolate!).

 

And I made cute Happy I Love You Day cards, stuffed into an envelope with some Valentine joke bookmarks and mazes and coloring pages, and actually mailed them out ahead of time for the kids!  We’re gonna sneak out to the mailbox and put ’em in there so the kids get mail today.  How fun is that!  I almost never get things done ahead of time like that, lol.

If you haven’t gotten in the spirit of things before now, it’s not too late.  Plenty of Valentine lovey-dovey fodder around.  These cuppie cakes were super easy, just used the FunFetti cake mix and baked them in the flat, cake cones.  Don’t over-fill them, though, or they will overflow all over the place (yes, I did get one whole tray of them like that).

Or make a Valentine card…plenty of cute things around on the interwebs.  We’ve posted ideas the past two weeks, and you can still check out some of the lovies we posted last year.  Write a love letter to your loved one, to yourself, to the world…make a journal page with hearts…write a love poem or haiku…recite some Shakespeare…watch a romance…listen to a love song or two…Just feel the love!

I hope you feel the love today.  That’s what it’s all about.  And know that here, someone is thinking of you, as I think of you to whom I am writing, all of the time!

Valentine Logo

Christmas in July Recipes

Our family has a favorite cookie recipe.  We bake it pretty much at Thanksgiving and Christmas-time every year, only occasionally baking these cookies other times during the year.  This year, I timed our family’s turn for taking snacks to church with the whole Christmas in July theme…so that I could bake these yummies for church and take pics for the blog!  Double-duty!  While I have tried many different chocolate cookies over the years, I have never found a chocolate cookie as good as this one…and as long as you don’t overcook it, it stays soft and chewie for a day or two (after that, they do get a bit crunchy).

I also wanted to share with you a quick and easy and super yummy way to make banana bread…while I do most of my baking from scratch, this banana bread has always won rave reviews from everyone, and sometimes it’s nice to have something this easy.

Chocolate Cookie Recipe (makes about 6 dozen)

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Mix oil, melted chocolate, and sugar.  Blend eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt into oil mixture.  Chill several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350°.  Roll teaspoonful of dough into balls and drop into powdered sugar and roll around in the sugar.  Place about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  DO NOT OVERBAKE.

Tips:

  • I usually don’t get 6 dozen out of this recipe as I make our cookies a bit larger.
  • You can double this recipe, it works well.
  • We are at a higher altitude, so I bake the cookies for about 9 minutes.  They don’t really “look” done at first, so don’t rely on how they look to decide if their done baking.  Make a batch, wait till they cool, and see if they taste overdone.  They will get less soft as they sit, so you really don’t want to over bake.
  • Add the baking powder after mixing in half of the flour, this will help the baking powder give the cookies a good amount of rise (as compared to adding the baking powder and then mixing in the flour).

Banana Bread Cake (my kids call it banana cake)

Use a yellow cake mix, my personal fave with this is the butter yellow recipe.  Use smashed ripe bananas instead of the water called for in the box recipe.  I typically use about 3 medium-to-large bananas.

You can also add nuts to this, pecans or walnuts are awesome.

Bake to the recipe on the box.  This is super yummy, and super easy, and super quick!  I think I read this idea in a magazine or some such thing years ago, but between this and some of the scratch recipes I use, this is the one that everyone always asks for more!!

 

Celebrating Christmas in July ~ Some How-to Projects to Inspire You

Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.

~ Dale Evans

I know, I know, Christmas in July can seem a bit hokey.  It’s tough for me to think about Christmas this far out, when we’re focused on bbq’s and going to the lake and entertaining kidlets now that they’ve been out of school for so many weeks…

I do start thinking about little gifts and treasures for the holidays, I start stashing goodies that I find on clearance racks and on ebay and craigslist and at the many yard sales during the summer.  When you have four kids, you have to plan ahead and watch great deals.

And every year I promise myself that I’ll start my Christmas projects earlier, so that during the actual holiday times I’m not absorbed with the projects so I can enjoy the festivities more fully.

In honor of that whole idea, I’ll be sharing several fun holiday-inspired projects with you, including a couple of my most-favorite recipes for the holidays.  If you, too, think of getting a few projects out of the way before the holidays are upon us, then hopefully these will help you get inspired.

I’ll be including the How-to Instructions on the projects I’m posting, along with pictures and thoughts on how to adapt the projects for other uses.  As we truck along, I’d love for you to share any thoughts or ideas you have on preparing early, and on what kinds of projects you make for the holidays.

One year, I made everyone on my list custom dream catchers.  Another year it was all jewelry, followed the next year by birth chart necklaces.  And still another year everyone got multi-media canvases.  I’ve made hand-made journals, rag rugs, beautiful photo albums, music compilation CD’s, and Christmas scrapbooks.

I hope you’ll join me this week for a couple of jump-start projects!

xoxo

Prompt: Do you make gifts for Christmas?  Do you like to make decorations and holiday foods and treats?  Do you make your own gift wrap?  What kinds of artsy-craftsy projects do you like to make for the holidays?  

Do You Love Bread Pudding Like I Do?

I might have told you before that I am really not the cook in the house.  I mostly view cooking as a chore, and not as a creative outlet or as pleasant in any way.  I get stressed out in the kitchen.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really do love to eat.  I do love watching Christopher in the kitchen.  I do love helping pick out new dishes to try, and helping choose flavors that I hope he uses in our next meal.  I love to decorate the table.  I’ll even do the dishes.

But I really don’t care much for the actual cooking.

Occasionally, though, I do get a wild hair and get excited about baking something.  In fact, I have mastered the art of the cookie.  Of course, I think that comes along with the whole package of Mommy Magic.

I love bread pudding.  I haven’t met many bread puddings that I didn’t love.  I especially love the kind of bread pudding you get back down South, and having grown up in Texas, with a bunch of family from Louisiana, I especially love New Orleans-style bread pudding.

I found a super-yummy recipe on http://www.allrecipes.com for a very yummy, very simple, French Quarter Bread Pudding.  Oh, my, gosh!  It’s really a great recipe.

I will give you the couple of things I adapted.  I know, you’re supposed to try the recipe as is first, before you make any adjustments.  But I wasn’t sure how the whole bread pudding thing was going to go over in my house, so I didn’t know if it would be any time soon before I got to make it again and adapt it…

So here’s what tiny little things I did a bit differently than the posted recipe:

  1. I had Christopher make the french bread here at home.  He made a nice, dense bread for me.  Yummy.  I had a hard time not munching the bread straight away.
  2. I did NOT add raisins.  Yuck.  I do not like raisins in my bread pudding.
  3. I used heavy cream rather than half and half.  I like a thicker bread pudding.
  4. I doubled the cinnamon, nutmeg, and the vanilla.
  5. We baked up some pecans in butter and brown sugar, and then drizzled the top of the bread pudding with that and more melted butter.

Okay, so the extra sweet from the brown sugar on top was a bit sweet, next time I’ll work on a bourbon sauce, I just didn’t have any bourbon on hand this time.  Otherwise, this was so yummy, it looked beautiful, it was the perfect texture…and no, my kids weren’t crazy about it.  I think if they would’ve given it more of a chance, they might have loved it…they just thought it mostly looked weird.  I think that was my opinion of bread pudding when I was a kid.  So much lost time, sigh.

I hope you get a chance to try this out, it really is one of my fave new recipes.

And please!!  Let me know if you have any good bread pudding recipes, as I do love them!!

Yummy Birthday Cake, Recipe and Notes for Your Pleasure

I promised you that I’d bring you pics and the recipe for the new cake we made for Bella’s Birthday celebration dinner…

Christopher does most of the cooking in our house…I see cooking mostly as a chore, while Christopher sees cooking as his favorite artistic expression.  That probably explains why no one will eat my cooking and they all love his!!

I am really good at ideas and inspirations, so I find stuff for him to make.  His gift is taking the ideas and flavor inspirations and making wonderful creations for us.

I do get to help with all of the baking, though.  I have mastered the art of cookies, and I have been conquering the cake.

We’ve been making all of our kidlets’ birthday cakes over the years…some of them turn out to be wild and even a bit weird Elmos or garden flowers and even Lightening McQueen cakes.  Some times we don’t do the character thing and keep it to yummy and beautiful creations, like strawberry shortcakes or chocolate-cake-and-cream-roll cakes.  But they are always a work of love and joy and celebration.

Bella’s Birthday Bash Cake was adapted from a recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I actually get the hard-copy magazine delivered to my home (one of the best gifts I have ever received), but I will include links to the recipes online for you.  On a side note, Living is one of the best sources of inspiration for all kinds of neat stuff ~ color schemes, decorating, how-tos, party planning, collage fodder, crafty projects, recipes, all kinds of stuff.  Some of the inspiration is exactly what is in the magazine and other inspiration is indirect, but every month it is chock-full of great stuff.  I visit the online site for ideas regularly as well.  I most often go to allrecipes.com for food ideas, but Martha Stewart totally rocks!

You can find the recipes here for the Raspberry White Cake and the Meringue Frosting.

I know that ours doesn’t look exactly like Martha’s cake, but we opted out of the flaked coconut on top of the cake and put on the raspberries.  Bella loves all things produce, and for her, more is better.

Christopher and I actually did this whole thing together.  We had a great time, and the cake turned out beautifully and yummy and was a big hit.

I would only suggest a couple of adaptations for the next time around:

  1. We used Knotts Berry Farm raspberry jam for the goo in between the layers.  It was way too sweet.  WAY too sweet.  Next time we will make our own raspberry compote for in between the layers.
  2. We did not fold a bunch of raspberries into the batter just in case the kidlets didn’t like the cooked raspberries.  The batter got a little bit dry, as the batter accounts for the juice in the raspberries cooking into the batter.  Next time I will add a bit more whole milk to make up for that and keep the cake a little more moist.
  3. I cooked it too long, by about 3 or 4 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook, just let the cakes get barely golden before getting them out of the oven.

But the flavor and texture were both awesome, the meringue was the perfect amount of sweet and fluffy, and the whole thing is a fairly simple recipe and didn’t take too long.  Definitely one we will try again in the future!

Prompt:  Do you have a favorite cake recipe?  I would really love to hear about it 🙂

Valentine Cookies

Our I Love You Day cookies…it was a great party, and now we’ll be back onto regularly-scheduled programming (do I even have that yet??)…

While the kidlets overdid it a bit on the decorations, the sugar cookie recipe we used was AWESOME!!  It tastes good, the dough rolled out and cut nicely.

For a look at the recipe, check it out here.  I love allrecipes.com.  I not only find lots of yummy recipes there, I love to read through other people’s suggestions and reviews on the recipes.  For this recipe in particular, I adapted the recipe just a tiny bit: I added an extra cup of sugar and an extra 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla.  Enjoy!!

Decorated sugar cookies