Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sofia the First Birthday Cake


So, I make birthday cakes for my family. That's one of my primary functions in the pod,
(besides being the cool aunt, of course).

For her fifth birthday, my niece Lex wanted a Sofia the First cake.

"Who's Sofia the First," you might ask.

 

GOOD QUESTION!

She's a new Disney princess geared towards younger girls. She has a weekly show.. or bi-weekly or something like that. Anyhoo... She's new. 

So new, in fact, that there is very little inspiration out there to draw upon. 

However, God was on my side when I went to the Disney store... My friend Sarah spied, with her own little eyes, the very last  of the Sofia figurines.

(Thank you, God for Sarah's eyes!!!).
 
I ran to Charming Charlie's and got a $15 tiara.
I ran Michael's and Hobby Lobby and got a big purple feather and these feathery clips from the spring collection and clipped them onto some wooden skewers, (which I painted silver).

 Then it was time for the baking.


So, I made this chocolate cake recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. This was my 3rd time making the cake, and with a couple of Chelle tweaks, I think I finally perfected the recipe! Woohoo! (will provide the recipe later).

I baked 3 medium sized cakes and stacked 'em high.  While baking the cakes, I made up a batch of buttercream frosting.

After years of experimentation, I think I finally perfected that recipe too... and totally on accident!! Double woohoo!

Once my cakes had cooled and coloring had been added to the frosting, it was time to decorate the cake.  But I didn't like the way the "Lex" looked, so I sent out a text asking for some opinions and scraped off the offending letters while I awaited responses.



I discovered I had some little candy pearls from a past project, so I decided to decorate the side the cake with crisscrosses, and put a pearl over each intersection.

As you can see I didn't really center her name very well... but she's only 5... like she's gonna care.

And one of the parents at the party asked if I made cakes on the side or something 

(cuz she thought it looked that good, not cuz the name was not centered well
.  How nice of her!).

This is how I imagined it would look once we got to Chuck E. Cheese.



 In the end, Lex wanted to help decorate, (no big shocker there), and Sofia and her step sister ended up on the top of the cake...

(and I have to admit... they looked great on the top. The five year old gets a high five!)


In the end, the kid loved the cake. And that's what's important, right?

(She even wore the tiara to mass the next day.)


I promise to share my chocolate cake and buttercream frosting recipes at a later time....

you know, like when I'm not about to fall asleep over my keyboard!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some Journal Pages


 Once upon a time in February, I spent an evening working on a couple of journal pages.

I found a few drawings of some mushrooms that were inspirational.
I copied some of the sketches almost exactly, others I made up as I went along.
 
I actually learned a bit when I was making this journal page.

(but it was so long ago, I can't remember what!)
 



I decided to play with some ink I have in ink droppers for the next journal page.

I don't know why,  but I love working directly with the dropper in a jar of ink rather than using a paintbrush or something.

It's super soothing.

I was just playing around with this one, but think it's quite pretty.


That's all for now, folks!

Until next time......

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Witch Cupcakes with Creme de Menthe Butter Cream Frosting



About a month ago I asked my niece what kinda cake she wanted for her birthday.
(cuz I make the cakes)

After making some suggestions, (fairy, monsters, flowers), she said,
"I want a witch cake. With green skin,
a hat,
and a cart.
(aka a cape)

I went on an exhaustive search for some ideas on Pinterest and the world wide web,
I discovered there weren't that many ideas.

I also knew I didn't wanna bother with fondant.  It looks pretty, but lacks in the flavor department.

In the end, I just winged it. 

I made chocolate cupcakes and some homemade creme de menthe 
butter cream frosting.
(Which was the best icing I've ever made, 

in my not so humble opinion).

I used fruit roll ups for the capes, 

a dark chocolate fudge stripe cookie, frosting and a Hershey's Kiss for the hats,
and candy eyes I acquired from the local baking supplies shop.

(Where, I swear, being rude and exhibiting poor customer 
service skills is a prerequisite of all
applicants. 
Their tag line should be something like:
"Don't expect service with a smile."
 
Or!

"We may sell sweets, but the employees here are anything but!")

My niece, the birthday girl, helped me assemble the cupcakes.


But not before she ate half the capes.


In the end we had an army of edible witches.... 


The birthday girl liked making them, even if she didn't eat them.

(She really doesn't eat cake.
What kinda wacky kid doesn't eat cake? 
This one!)



Even Pop-Pop enjoyed the cupcakes
(Sans the cape.
He's of the generation that 

is freaked out by fruit roll ups)



Oh!  You want the recipe for the Creme de Menthe Buttercream frosting??
 
Ingredients:
4 sticks unsalted butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup creme de menthe
1/8 cup milk
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
 

Directions:  
Add butter and milk and mix with electric mixer.   
Slowly add powdered sugar by the cupful.  
Add the creme de menthe and peppermint extract until all is well blended.

**Note: If you want thicker frosting, add more powdered sugar.
If you want a mintier frosting, add more creme de menthe and/or peppermint extract.

Enjoy!



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year's Resolution - Be More Intentional

Which includes being more intentional about pursuing the creation of art.  

Years ago I picked up a book called The Creative License by Danny Gregory.


Keeping true to my turtle-like form, I'm just now digging into it. 

If you're a little creatively rusty or never believed yourself to be a creative type,
(but feel the "ember," as he calls it, burning)
you really need to think about picking this book up and reading it. 
(and do what it says too).


The first part of the book I covered tonight directed me to draw a chair, mug, person and table, 
and I wasn't allowed to erase anything.

To remove the erasing temptation, I drew in some oil pastels:


It was actually a lot of fun.  

But now I must sleep. 

Will share more of my artsy fartsy adventures soon.  

I promise!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey and Leek Vegetable Chowder - A Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipe



So, I belong to this co-op of sorts that sources organic and locally grown
fruits and veggies... and they deliver your order TO YOUR DOORSTEP!!


Yes. You read correctly: DELIVER.
TO YOUR DOORSTEP!


If you live in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Columbus or Dayton,
I highly suggest you check out Green B.E.A.N. Organic Produce and Natural Groceries at:
www.greenbeandelivery.com

ANYHOO...  The point of this being, sometimes I forget to adjust my order,
so they send me what is in season and such.  This means
I often end up with some kind of vegetable I would NEVER buy EVER.

Thus, the leek in this recipe. 
Not that I have anything against leeks. 
I just never cooked with them.

I had to watch videos on how to prepare them.
(Thank God for the World Wide Web)

My sister hosted our Thanksgiving dinner, but I ended up with one of the legs of the turkey as well as a few pieces of white meat. 

That's a lot of meat for a single gal.

Full disclosure: I don't know that I've ever knowingly eaten much dark meat.
(Growing up I was raised to dislike it.
But I never tried it.
So how could I know I didn't like it?
Turns out it's not bad at all!)


Today was a big flop around the house day.
(It's 6:30, and I'm still wearing what I slept in last night...)

In other words, I was not leaving the house for anything. 

When it came time for dinner, 
I decided to get a little creative.
Here's what I came up with:


(Recipe Grace request: I didn't measure a lot of stuff cuz I was using what I had.
Please forgive the "couple of shakes of" ingredients.
It really does give you, the chef, more control over the recipe.)




Turkey and Leek Vegetable Chowder: A Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipe

                                     Ingredients:

                                       - Leftover Turkey (I used meat from one leg and about 6 oz of turkey 
                                         breast)
                                       - One leek (leaves removed, rinsed and sliced)
                                       - 2-3 large carrots diced
                                       - 1/4 of a medium sized onion diced
                                       - 2 TB olive oil
                                       - 5 new potatoes diced into small pieces
                                       -  1 cup of frozen peas
                                       - 32 oz of low sodium chicken broth
                                       - 2 cups of water
                                       - Garlic Powder
                                       - Thyme
                                       - Onion Powder
                                       - 1 cup fat free half and half

                                       - Salt and Pepper to taste


                                 Directions:


                                    1. Sautee leeks, onions and carrots in olive oil in a large sauce pan 
                                        on medium heat. Stir occasionally.
                                    2. When the vegetables start getting soft, add turkey, potatoes, 
                                        chicken broth and water.
                                    3. Add about 1/2 tsp of thyme.
                                    4. Add about 6-8 shakes of onion powder.
                                    5. Add about 6-10 shakes of garlic powder.
                                    6. Turn heat on high and bring the mixture to a boil for about 10 
                                        minutes.
                                    7. Lower to medium heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
                                    8. Add peas and fat free half and half until the soup starts to 
                                        simmer again.
                                    9. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.


                             Additional Notes:
                                     - I don't know if this is thick enough to qualify as a "chowder." 
                                    - Add a couple of tablespoons of corn starch or puree some of 
                                      the potatoes, leeks and carrots before adding the half and half.
                                      
I served mine with a baked cheese sandwich (on homemade white bread) 
and some NFL football.


It turned out quite well! 
(I have a feeling it's going to taste even better tomorrow after the 
ingredients have time to, like, blend or whatever 
the correct term is. hehe)

If you try this, let me know what you think!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sweet Potato Hash - First Recipe

I'm embarrassed to admit that I throw out a bit of food.

(In my defense, I'm single.  I oft have grand delusions
of making many different recipes during my week.
Then I get busy and am not home.
Or I eat out with friends... only to have my fresh foods spoil).

Earlier today I had a migraine and came home from work a little early to sleep it off.
Then I didn't feel like going out to get some food.
Then I realize, "Hey, self, you have a fridge filled with fresh fruits and veggies. 
Here's a novel idea... make something with them!"

Then I thought "Self, that is a GREAT idea! Whatever shall I make?"
Then I remembered that my friend and co-worker Mike was warming up some amazing
looking dish his girlfriend made 
of kale, sweet potatoes, potato and carrots.
She calls it Winter Veggie Hash 
(or something like that).

Inspired by this dish, I decided to get a lil' crafty in the kitchen.


Here's what you'll need:

                                            -  One large sweet potato - peeled and diced into small pieces.
                                            -  One large baking potato - washed and diced into small pieces 
                                                   (no need to peel if you don't wanna.)
                                            -  Two large carrots - peeled and diced
                                            -  1 medium onion diced into small pieces.
                                            -  2 tsp of cumin
                                            -  1/8 tsp cinnamon
                                            -  3-4 TB olive oil
                                            -  Salt to taste

                                           Directions:
                                 1. Place all items but salt in a large sauce pan or skillet on medium.
                                 2. Place lid pan.
                                 3. Stir frequently until sweet potatoes are soft (between 30-45 minutes.
                                 4. Add salt.
                                 5. Serve.


It's pretty good! 

Not my best recipe, but not bad. I'll probably be tweaking it in the future.
BUT! It's healthy, filling and would probably make a really good
side dish with some kind of meat.

(I realize this is not the best endorsement, but I like things VERY flavorful - more so than many others. Like I said... it'd make a great companion dish, in my humble opinion.

Hope you kinda like it too! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Toilet Paper Roll Reindeer Craft for Little Kids (and Big Kids Too!)

After three and a half years of her being on this earth, my niece had her first sleepover at my house over the weekend.
Earlier in the week we discussed what she wanted to do:
1. Make reindeer.
2. Have Pizza.
3. Watch a movie.

As soon as she got here, we started making pizza dough in my bread machine.
Best pizza dough recipe I've tried, so far.
(Probably cuz there's beer in it.
I like beer. 
A lot.)

Here's the recipe if you're interested:
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Bread-Machine-Pizza-Dough/Detail.aspx?prop31=1

Anyhoo... Back to the craft.  While the dough was.... like... becoming dough, we had about an hour and a half to kill.

We killed the time by making reindeer.

 
 Here's what you'll need:
                      1. Empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls (cut into size of TP rolls).
                      2. Wobbly Eyes
                      3. Red and black felt, paper, pipe cleaners,

                            (or any material suitable for a reindeer nose).
                      4. Brown craft paint
                      5. Paintbrushes
                      6. Craft glue
                      7. Glue gun
                      8. Small hole punch.
                      9. Christmas picks

First, you'll start painting your toilet paper rolls.


While my niece was painting, I went through my box of Christmas picks and found some branchy-lookin ones that could pass as antlers. 
(My niece really liked the sparkly ones the best. I did too!).
 

I cut off pieces of the branches and paired them with branches of similar shape and sizing.

While she finished painting the rolls, I punched holes in the toilet paper rolls, covered the ends of the sparkly branches with hot glue and inserted them in the holes.  

(This was tricky cuz the glue was on high heat and would sometimes start making the plastic branches very malleable. Just had to be patient and hold them in place when needed.
If there were pictures of this step to see... you'd certainly recognize the
"I'm burning my fingers on hot glue" grimace on my face.)


After I got done(burning my fingers on hot glue) putting the antlers on, it was time for the wobbly eyes.

My niece was able to do this part by herself for the most part, but still asked me to do some with her.



She found a battery operated candle and decided to have a reindeer campfire before adding their noses. 

(I don't care who you are.  This is cute!)

Once their noses were added, I started adding smiles and even eyelashes on some. 

The niece wanted to make a girl reindeer, too.

(Can you guess which one she worked on?
)



All in all this was a very simple project, and the niece had a little seasonally relevant
memento of the evening with Auntie Chelle.

Oh! The movie we watched was Emmit Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.
I'm pretty sure I liked it more than she did,
but! She had a great time.

That's really all that mattered!