Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to Save Overbaked Cupcakes

Borrowing some inspiration from Pinterest and my need to branch out and make some friends in my neighborhood, I decided to host a soup exchange night. I like entertaining and have fun planning the menu, getting the house ready, etc. For soup night, the menu included Zuppa Toscana (recipe from here), salad, bread, and cupcakes for dessert. My day went fairly smoothly, my girls cooperated and I felt like I was making good time accomplishing what I wanted to. Then, I pulled the cupcakes out of the oven. I could tell within 30 seconds of pulling them out that they were about 3-4 minute too well done. The perfectionist in me was ready to dump them in the garbage can right away and start over again. Especially with guests coming over I didn't want to serve them dry cake. I racked by brain trying to think of what I could do to salvage them.

Thank goodness, I had an epiphany. I had a vision of making Skor cupcakes, a variation of Skor cake which involves baking a cake, cutting it into cubes, and layering it with pudding, whipped cream, and Skor bits. I figured that the same thing could probably be accomplished in individual servings with cupcakes instead which would add some much needed moisture to my too dry cupcakes. I cut each cupcake in half and put the bottoms into little white mugs that I have. I then layered chocolate pudding, whipped cream and Skor bits on top of that. Then I put the tops back on and repeated all of the layers again.

They actually turned out pretty cute, and they tasted good too. Dessert saved, and problem solved.

The whole night went really well. I provided dinner for everyone, and then each person brought their own soup in individual servings so that we could exchange them. We had a good variety of soups: taco soup, chicken and vegetable soup, creamy tomato basil, and a white bean chili. Thanks to Michelle for driving through a snowstorm to come support me and hang out. We had a good time talking, laughing, eating, and now we all have lunch for the rest of the week.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Double Crochet Beanie

I decided it was time to post a pattern. The pattern I decided on is for a super easy double crocheted hat. I use this beanie as a basis for a lot of my animal hats. The pattern should make a hat to fit a two year old. This is my first pattern so if there is any confusion please comment.

Gauge: 4 Dc =11/2"
Hook Size: H/8-5.00mm
Medium Worsted Yarn #4

Slst-Slip Stitch
Dc-Double Crochet
*Repeat pattern until end of round*

To start hat:
-Chain 5, Slst in 1st chain to join. (will form a ring) Ch 3

Rnd 1
-11 Dc in center of ring, Slst in top of 3rd Ch to join. Ch 3 and turn

This is the very top of the hat. The next few rounds will be widening the hat.

Rnd 2
-2 Dc in next St from Ch. *Repeat until end of the rnd.* 1 Dc in last st. Slst in top of 3rd Ch to join. Ch 3 (24St, 2 1/2")

Rnd 3
-*1 Dc in next St next to Ch, 2 Dc in next St, 1 Dc in next St.* 1 Dc in last St. Slst in top of 3rd Ch to join. Ch 3 (34 St, 3 1/2")

Rnd 4
-Repeat last rnd. (50 st, 5")

Rnd 5
-*1 Dc in next 5 St from Ch, 2 Dc in next St, 1 Dc in next 5 St.* 1 Dc in last St. Slst in top of 3rd Ch to join. Ch 3 (58 st, 5 3/4")

At this point the beanie will resemble a plate. Don't worry the next rounds it will start to work its way down.

Rnd 6
-1 Dc in St next to Ch. 1 Dc in each remaining St until end of rnd. Slst in top of 3rd Ch to join. Ch 3

By doing just 1 Dc in each stitch the hat should no longer get bigger. It should just go straight down.

Rnd 7-12
-Repeat last rnd to finish hat.

To finish hat:
-At the end of rnd 12 slst to 3rd Ch. Pull yarn through until there is a loop about 4" long. Cut yarn at top of loop and pull yarn still connected to the skein out of loop. Take the loose end attached to the hat and tie a knot in it as close to the hat as possible. Then take the yarn and weave it back through the hat.

Finished hat
As I said before this is the base for my animal beanies. These hats are cute alone or things can be added to them.

My black bear and dog.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let It Be- a DIY guide to failing every now and again

I came across a Woody Allen quote once and it has stuck with me. 

"If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative." 

Well on my last project "innovation" was my middle name, because it was definitely a swing and a miss. Let me start at the beginning...

Last summer Ben and I were on vacation at his uncle's summer home. We were in one of the local shops and found a window for sale that had been salvaged from an old barn. So we bought it for $20 and took it home with visions of a glorious DIY project dancing in our heads.

Now last month I found that old window (I'm a procrastinator, remember?) and painted the frame a lovely pea green color (I know what you are thinking, but the color of the frame is NOT where this project went awry). 

Armed with confidence from the successful paint job, I boldly charged on to step 2. Throwing caution to the wind I decided to try something new...unique...creative even. And that my friends, is where our tragedy begins.

It all began, with 3 little words- LET IT BE.

I know it seems innocent enough. But those three words were my downfall with this project. There just so happened to be 3 panes in this window, so of course I thought I'd get fancy and use some vinyl lettering as stencils, stick one of the words Let it Be in each panel, paint the negative spaces with some acrylic paint, and BAM! A DIY project worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Let's just say reality didn't even come close. From the color palette I mixed up to the method of painting, it was a disaster. In my mind I'd pictured something unique, simple and cool. But the end product was a horrible camouflage type look that even the bravest of hunters wouldn't touch with a 10ft pole.
(At first, I was going to go for a solid striped look with the paint, but after the first brush stroke the artist in me thought, "Hmmm, uniformity is boring, I'll just let the colors blend." FYI- Sometimes boring is better.)
Well, let's just say there was a clean up on aisle innovation. It took me three quarters of a bottle of fingernail polish remover and about a gazillion paper towels, but I am now back to a blank canvas on my DIY Hall of Fame project.
And guess what? Before there was Woody Allen there was Thomas Edison, and it took him 1,000 tries before he invented the light bulb. 

He said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

So I suppose I can't throw in the towel just yet. Maybe the Hall of Fame is still within reach.  Stay tuned for take 2.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Toddler Closet Organization

Like many of you, I sometimes have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. I love the inspiration and the good ideas that can come from it, but sometimes it makes me jealous of all of the gorgeous, well-organized homes that are out there. I pinned a few really nice children's closets to my pinboard, and I'll admit that I was feeling some closet envy. I wanted to come up with a cute way to keep Johana's closet organized, but didn't have money to buy cute containers or extravagant shelving systems. One thing that we seem to have an excess of is cardboard boxes. Between shopping at Costco and ordering things from Amazon I feel like I am always breaking down boxes for the recycle bin. There have been a few tutorials popping up here and there for covering diaper boxes in fabric to make them more attractive, which I considered, but I still didn't want to spend the money it would take to buy the fabric.

My more frugal solution was to cover the boxes in paper. Around Christmas, I bought a roll of shiny white newsprint from a local newspaper office. I paid $5 for it, and I don't know how much was on it, but it was enough to wrap all of my Christmas presents and to cover 8 boxes and counting. I just measured the sides of the boxes, used my rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut rectangles that were 2 inches wider and longer than the box sides, and glued them on with spray adhesive. I pretty much wrapped them like a present, except that I used separate pieces of paper instead of just one.

To add some visual interest, I used scrapbook paper so cover the sides leaving a few inches of the white showing at the top. I bought a pack of patterned paper with a 40% off coupon, and since it was 12x12 sheets, I cut it into 6 inch strips. I used the same spray adhesive to attach the scrapbook paper, and on some of the long sides had to piece it together. You can only tell if you look really closely though. I was out of Modge Podge when I made all of these boxes, but I think that I will go over the scrapbook paper with Modge Podge to make it a little bit more durable.

To get more vertical storage, I wanted to do shelves. I considered doing something built-in, but since the plan is to eventually move baby sister in here someday and our storage needs may change, I opted to use the $15 Wal-Mart bookshelves instead. The blue baskets came from Dollar Tree and help to keep the smaller toys somewhat sorted. Cleaning up with a two-year old is easier when you can just throw everything in a basket, hence the stacking crates. Most of her toys are just thrown in there to make clean up easier.

I added some labels so that I actually knew what was in the boxes, and there you have my closet makeover. I like it enough that I will probably do something similar in the closet in my nursery next week.


Linking to:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fireplace Makeover

About a year and a half ago we bought our first home. It is an older home and needed some updating. We started out gung-ho painting the whole upstairs, ripping up all the carpet, and some of the flooring in the kitchen. After all of that, the fireplace was next on the list. 

I had an idea of what I wanted but it lacked details. I looked at some images of fireplaces online and Mandi emailed me some links to blogs that she liked. From the links I found the details I needed. The inspiration came from Theletteredcottage. Her blog has awesome step by step instructions of their fireplace makeover. Now that I had an example it was time to set the makeover in motion and get my husband for assistance (aka tell him what I wanted and set him to work). 
First we took out the front glass cover and the fake logs.  
Then I painted the inside of the fireplace. 
Then my husband started the design process. We used flat wood boards for the backing and 1 x 2's to make the squares. We used liquid nails for the backing boards and a nail gun to attach the boards for the squares.  
Next, we put a 1 x 12 all the way across to make the top. Then we bought a 6 ft piece of crown molding and used that as our mantle section above the actual fireplace. We also used a small piece of decorative trim to cover the outside edge of the top board.Then we added book shelves to each side.
 The bottom bench part of the fireplace was the trickiest. We had to encase the old brick and stone step. So we ended up cutting strips of wood and doing a kind of paneling pattern. 

This is the finished product. Turns out that designing as we went worked best for us. We really enjoy it. It makes our front room more cozy, and yes that is a plant in my fireplace. Even though it turned out great, there are some things we would do differently. 

Things we would do differently...
  • Caulk before we painted.
  • Apply some type of sealant or finish at the very end. 
  • Use fire retardant paint when painting the inside of the fireplace. 

Linking to:



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DIY Custom Rubik's Cube

My husband has wanted a custom Rubik's Cube for quite a while now. I thought about using vinyl and using en exacto knife to cut through the pieces so that they would fit on the individual squares. Then, I found custom sticker sets on the Rubik's cube website. They are pretty reasonably priced, around $6 for a kit that will make 10 customized cubes. From reading on the website, it sounded like there was a bit of a learning curve for getting the stickers to print correctly, so I thought that it might be easier to just print my own pictures on sticker paper that I already had.

I was able to download a template from the Rubik's cube website, which is a Microsoft Word document. I tried bringing the photos that I wanted directly into Word, but it was too frustrating for me to size the pictures the way I wanted to, so I saved the template as a PDF and opened it in Photoshop instead. I chose the six pictures that I wanted, cropped them to about 2.2"x2.2", and laid them across the template. There was enough space to do six more underneath, but since I only needed enough for one cube, I just left it blank.

This is what the template looked like with the pictures in it:

I saved it as a jpeg, and printed it, making sure to choose the "Fit to page" option. I used Avery sticker paper like this:

And then I used my paper cutter to cut the pictures into the individual squares. Each time I cut a square, I laid it out where it would go so that I could keep track of all the little pieces. Then, I individually stuck each little square sticker to the corresponding square on the Rubik's Cube. I actually had an old cube on hand that the original stickers had come off. (Thanks, Justin!) This part did get a little tedious, but the whole project from start to finish didn't take more than an hour. The stickers stuck surprisingly well. I don't think that they will last forever, but I figure maybe in another couple of years I can re-customize it for him with some new pictures.

Of course I didn't get pictures of all of the sides before it was scrambled, but here a couple more scrambled pictures of the other sides:

I think that Jared has had fun trying to solve this. It is a little bit more challenging than a solid color Rubik's cube, so I am excited for him to be able to put it back together. 


Monday, February 20, 2012

Puffy Snowmen

I was looking on Pinterest for a fun art project to do with my son’s first grade class when I came across a post for a puffy snowman from Alison at Oopsey Daisy who got it from Jadi at Homemaking Fun who saw it on Krafty Kid. Where, or if, it was posted before that I have no idea but this was just what I was looking for.

My Samples

First I have to say that a project with both shaving cream and white glue is a recipe for trouble in a class with 21 first graders. When I discussed this with the teacher, Mrs S, I came with a tamer neater “Plan B project “ also as a backup. Mrs S. is great though and she was all for these snowmen.

This is how we did this project...

First, before class, I cut black hats and orange triangles from paper scraps and strips from leftover fleece scraps. I tied a knot and cut fringe in one end of each strip. This didn't take long since 4-5 of each were cut at a time.

The snow was made with equal parts of shaving cream and white glue. Hint: To judge what equal is, use a container you can see through... like a clear plastic cup, a glass mixing bowl, etc. For the class I used empty ice cream buckets. This makes it easier to see how much space the glue takes and double that for the shaving cream. Not an exact science but it worked. Fold the shaving cream into the glue.

In class  the kids creased the hats between the top and the brim to give them more dimension.

They twisted the orange triangles into "carrots" and cut or tore paper for eyes, buttons and other parts.

Then came time to play in the snow. First they used a scrap paper and had fun with the texture and feel of glue and shaving cream mix.

Then each of them were given a piece of blue mat board so they could create their snowmen. These were scraps leftover from mats cut for paintings. Most frame shops have lots of mat scraps that they usually just throw away.

Here are some of their wonderful creations...


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Master Bathroom

In college, I shared a room with Michelle. For two years, we lived in an apartment that had a bathroom in our bedroom. It was so nice and so convenient to have a bathroom to ourselves. That was the one and only time I actually had anything close to a master bathroom. So, when we looked at our house for the first time, the fact that there was a master bathroom was a big plus for me. It didn't even matter that it was hardly bigger than a closet. It had all the essential parts, and with some updating, I knew we would love having it. As the rest of the house was getting de-wallpapered, the master bathroom did too. We found out that the sink was leaky and that the toilet didn't work very well, and so then the bathroom sat and sat. After living in our home for a few months, I realized that it would take a little bit more than some new paint to fix up our master bathroom. Here are some of the major issues that I had with the bathroom:

1. The bathroom felt dated with the wallpaper, color scheme, etc.
2. There was a window to the main bathroom.
3. The shower was claustrophobic. It was almost completely closed in and was dark.
4. The shower-head was about a foot too low.
5. The shower-head was not centered, so you had to hug the wall to be able to use it.
6. The linoleum was stained and peeling.
7. There was not enough light or storage in the bathroom.

One night in October of 2010, I decided to start demo in the shower. I didn't really have a plan, but it felt good to be doing something. I also found a vanity that I liked in the online classified for a good price, so I bought it even though it would be a while before we were ready for it. In January 2011 we decided to use our tax refund to have someone come in to rebuild the shower and fill in the window between the two bathrooms. After we had that done, we now had: more lighting, an exhaust fan, a solid wall without a window, and a lighter prettier shower. At this point, the bathroom sat again for a long time. I got motivated to patch the walls and do some painting in the summer, but then it sat again. In October, my dad came over and helped Jared tile the floor. In January of this year, we bought a new toilet and as amateurs, 8 wax rings later, we finally got it installed. Then, last week we found out that some frieds were going to stay with us, and we had the extra push to finally finish the bathroom. I found a sink faucet that I liked, and after a few hours longer than Jared would have liked, and 3 trips to Lowe's later, we had a leak-free new sink with running water.

So, last Saturday marked the first day in the 20 months that we have lived in our house, that we were officially able to use our first ever master bathroom. It has been so great! No more having to keep the door closed to cover a major eyesore and no more having to shower downstairs. It is so nice to have another room updated, and I think that it looks great. My husband is awesome. He did most of the demo, tiled his first floor, and installed his first toilet and sink. Here is the almost finished room:

Now we have a white subway tile shower with a new centered shower-head and faucet handle.

Even though it is hard to tell from these pictures, the walls are actually gray. I like the look of stenciled walls, but opted for vinyl instead because it was less time consuming and is easier to change.

We have a new dual flush toilet. I left the cupboard doors off for open shelving.

We no longer have a vanity floating around from room to room, but it is actually in its final resting place providing valuable storage and counter space.

Again with storage in this room at a premium, my easy solution for updating the medicine cabinet was to cover it in a solid piece of white vinyl. It provided a new easy-to-clean surface, and was much easier than trying to paint it. I also put the gray vinyl pattern over the top for a decorative touch.

No more linoleum! I love the way the floor turned out. It is light, but has gray in it so that it matches the walls and the vanity.

We still need to put a few light switch plates on, hang the door, and finish up a few minor odds and ends. It is fully functioning and useable, and so nice to have.

And here is one more picture for the side by side comparison:


Thursday, February 16, 2012


It's crazy that sometimes even when you know that something is going to happen, that it needs to happen, it still makes it hard when it actually does happen. My grandpa has been living in a care center for the past 18 months battling Alzheimer's. It has been hard for all of us to see him like that, not really being able to communicate or really knowing what is going on. It has been hard for us to see our Grandma not wanting to leave his side, missing him, and wanting to see him have some recollection of his life and memories. Last week he caught pneumonia and my grandmother knew that he probably wouldn't have much longer to live. So, we have all been prepared for this and have known that it was coming, but when I got the call that he had passed away Monday morning, it still didn't make it a lot easier to take.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to grow up knowing my grandpa. I so many good memories of him and the time that we were able to spend together. He was a great man who loved his family. He always treated Grandma with respect and showed all of us through his example how to be a good person. I am so glad for the man that he raised my dad to be, and in turn for how that influenced how I was able to be raised.

He has left quite a legacy: six children, twenty-eight grandchildren, and thirteen great-grandchildren. Grandpas was a teacher for many years and instilled the importance of education in all of us.  In his family there are 27 Bachelor's degrees and counting, 6 Master's degrees, and 2 almost PHD's. Members of his family speak German, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Marshallese, Albanian, and American Sign Language.

Thinking about my grandpa this week and his life, has made me step back and think about my own life; both the things that I want to change and the things that I need to keep doing. I hope that someday I will be able to leave a legacy for my family like he has. He was just a week shy of his 83rd birthday, and from my perspective, it seems like they were 83 years well lived. He loved hunting, fishing, and being outdoors. He loved fixing things, computers, and reading. He was great at quietly teaching his family the things that he believed in.

I am thankful that Grandpa is no longer suffering, that is now in a place where he can actually know what is going on and remember things about his family and about his life. I am thankful for the knowledge that I have that even though his life on earth is over, that his life really isn't over and that we will all be able to be with him again someday. So, Grandpa, thank you for everything that you taught me, and thank you for always making me feel loved and important. We all love you and will miss you until we can see you again someday.

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