Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Currently

inspired by this post by Sometimes Sweet

Watching. Right now I'm watching the election results. It has me very stressed out. Otherwise, I'm thrilled that The Walking Dead is back on. I love me some zombies! I'm digging Once Upon A Time. I consider it my guilty pleasure, although I suppose that honor should probably go to Project Runway All Stars 2. 666 Park Avenue and New Girl are on my list of must-sees every week. My current Netflix obsession is Supernatural. I love me some Dean! I'd like to add that I really, really miss Lost. No other show has hooked me like Lost has (post-Friends and ER, of course). Well, let me take that back. The Walking Dead has me hooked.

Listening to. We listen to A LOT of Beatles in our house. The Bug really enjoys them, and we enjoy dancing to their tunes. I'm ashamed Ito say that I haven't been very diligent about listening to my music in, oh, the past 14 months or so. I need to work on that. I miss my music, and I miss making new music discoveries.

Planning. A wedding! Sort of. I'm planning a wedding for the summer of 2014. I was planning a wedding for July 2013, but certain circumstances have led to the decision to postpone the festivities until 2014. Regardless, I'm super excited, and I can't wait to really get into the nitty gritty of the planning with my sisters.

Thinking About. Obviously I'm currently thinking about the election. I voted today, and now I'm anxiously awaiting the results. I need to admit that I'm also thinking about expanding the family. Yeah, that's right, I have baby fever. I don't know why, and I didn't really expect it, but I've got it. Maybe it's because The Bug is getting older and the sight of all the new babies around me is making me soft. Who knows, but damn! I've got it bad. Don't expect any big announcements any time soon though. I have an IUD now, so there's no chance of any surprises. The next one's going to be planned.

Looking Forward to. The holidays. I'm psyched for the holidays this year because I think The Bug is at an age where she might get excited about bits and pieces. I think she's going to love the Christmas tree, and she's very into opening boxes and discovering what's inside them, so presents will be exciting too. I only wish that we could spend the holidays with family. I miss that.

Reading. I'm ashamed to say that I'm not currently reading anything. I just can't seem to find the time. I need to work on that.

Making Me Happy. The Bug. She always makes me happy. She fills my heart with so much love. She's been so sweet lately. She's really into hugs and kisses, and she's really taken to "mothering" her stuffed animals and dolls. It's so sweet to see her holding them, rocking them, and patting them on the back. She gives out many kisses to them too. She really is becoming such a sweet toddler.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Pretty Party for A Pretty Baby (and one for her daddy too)



We had a lovely summer around here. A couple of trips to the beach... a road trip back to New York to visit family... some nice quiet at-home time... To round out our summer, we celebrated a couple of birthdays. Mr. H's and The Bug-a-Bug's first birthday to be exact. It seems over the years, what with blogging and the rise of Pinterest, making a big to-do over the first birthday has become quite popular. Were we closer to family, or had more friends in the area, I might have bought into the over-planned, detail-orientated, themed first birthday, but thankfully, I didn't. Instead, we had a couple of friends over for a barbecue lunch, followed by cake and presents. That being said, I didn't want this milestone to pass without making it special, even if it was in small ways. 

Over the months, I've been pinning many, many party ideas for the Bug's birthday. I knew I wouldn't make any of the ideas a reality, but it was fun to imagine. While tossing around possible "themes", I kept returning to the simple and easy to pull together rainbow colors party. Now, I've seen some rainbow party ideas on Pinterest, and, in my opinion, some of them can be over the top and in your face with the rainbows. I wanted to just take the colors and be inspired by them.

One of my summer projects was making a rainbow felt birthday banner for The Bug. I wanted something that we could reuse every year, and that she could take with her as a memento of her childhood when that day finally comes. I ordered some vintage fabric scraps and some bright colored felt from Etsy shop, Swell Goods, and it all came together after that. I considered also making The Bug a felt birthday crown in the Montessori style, but a lacking a sewing machine and he time to hand sew one, I chose not to.


The internet has been chock full of brightly colored rainbow and Tye-dyed baked goods. I liked them, but I wasn't thrilled over the idea of using food dye. Then I came across this how-to that uses natural food to dye cake batter, resulting in a beautiful pastel and soft colored cake. The cake recipe was simple enough, but the dyes tripped me up a little because I don't actually own a juicer. I was able to make do without a juicer for all of the colors, except for the green, spinach dyed layer. I ended up using the water from microwaving frozen spinach. It wasn't nearly as bright as I was hoping, but I was so happy with the results of the other layers that it didn't even phase me. I layered my cake with whipped cream and topped it off with some rainbow sprinkles. I found a really pretty striped #1 candle at a local party store that complimented the layers of the cake nicely. Since seeing my cake, everyone has been asking how it tasted. Believe it or not, it tastes just like regular white cake!

To round out my rainbow non-theme party, we used The Bug's plates we bought from Ikea, used some brightly colored tissue paper for wrapping gifts, hung the birthday banner, and dressed The Bug in a brightly colored dress from Old Navy that she already had in her closet.

Adapted from a recipe by Kelsey Hilts
(Note: The original recipe used 5 1/2" cake pans, I adapted it to use regular 8" pans)

INGREDIENTS:
Natural Dyes:
– 2-3 Tbsp beet juice
– 2 Tbsp carrot juice
– 2 egg yolks + 2 Tbsp milk
– 2 Tbsp spinach water
– 2+ Tbsp blueberry juice
– 2+ Tbsp blackberry juice

White Cake {Courtesy of Cooking Light}:
– 3 1/2 cups flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1 3/4 cups sugar
– 1/4 cup butter
– 1 1/2 Tbsp oil
– 2 egg whites
– 1 2/3 cups milk, divided
– 1/2 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
– 2 1/2 tsp vanilla

Whipped Cream Frosting:
– 2 cups heavy cream
– 1/4 cup powdered sugar
– 1/8 tsp salt
– 1 tsp vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS:
Natural Dyes:

Red: Juice beets in a juicer or use the liquid in canned beets.
Orange: Juice carrots in a juicer or buy carrot juice.
Yellow: (you’ll use an egg yolks for this)
Green: Juice spinach in a juicer.
Blue: Microwave roughly 1/4 cup frozen blueberries in 30 second intervals until they start to burst, straining out 1+ Tbsp of blueberry juice.
Purple: Microwave roughly 1/4 cup frozen blackberries in 30 second intervals until they start to burst, straining out 1+ Tbsp of blackberry juice.

White Cake {Courtesy of Cooking Light}:
1. Cream the butter, oil and sugar. Add the egg whites and beat well. Add the vanilla, 1 cup milk and yogurt alternately with the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
2. Pour six portions of cake batter into separate bowls. Mix the natural dye into each bowl.
3. Pour each colored batter into a greased and floured cake pans.
5. Bake the cakes for 10 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Let the cakes cool for five minutes in the pan and then gently slide a knife around the edges and invert the cakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

Whipped Cream Frosting:
1. Beat the cream, sugar and salt at medium speed until stiff peaks form.
2. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Rainbow Cake:
1. Assemble the cake once the layers have completely cooled.
2. Place the purple layer on the serving cake platter.
3. Spread a couple of spoonfuls of whipped cream over the top of the layer, smoothing it until it is even.
4. Place the blue layer on top and repeat the process until the red layer is on top.
5. Then spread the whipped cream frosting on top for a finishing coat, either spreading it smooth with a knife or spatula or pulling it into soft peaks using a knife or the back of a spoon.

(Note: Mr. H's cake, pictured top left, was a German Chocolate Cake with a Caramel Pecan Frosting. Follow the links for the recipes.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Bug's Discovery Box

We all know how it goes... you buy your baby cool toys, and all she wants to do is play with the box. After observing the Bug play with cardboard boxes, I noticed that she likes to play with the flaps, find things inside, and empty it. We always have all sorts of boxes from Amazon lying around, so one day I cut a hole and a door in one. I put some of the Bug's toys inside, and I sat back and watched as she amused herself while reaching in and pulling out the different objects. The artist in me decided to take this discovery box one step further and really dress up the box.
The Bug's Discovery Box
Supplies:
- A cardboard box
- Acrylic paints in white, red, yellow and blue
- Foam brushes
- Scissors and a serrated knife
- Glue gun and glue sticks
- Mod Podge
- Pictures of babies from magazines
- Extra cardboard scraps
- Small mirrors
- Various textured materials: fur, felt, duct tape sheets, foam sheets

I think the assembly is pretty self-explanatory. Start with a cardboard box and paint it white. After painting it, close up the box again and re-seal with the glue gun (Note: If you're going to put a chute inside, like I did, you need to add it before sealing the box up). Use the serrated knife to cut various holes, a window and a door in the box. Decorate with the other materials.


The Bug loves looking in mirrors right now. I added the color wheel as a border so we can practice her colors when she's older. The window gets the most use. The Bug loves reaching in and pulling out the different objects I place in there for her. She gets so excited when she pulls something out and has to show it off to me. She likes the fur, but unfortunately the Bug pulls all the strands off and tries to eat them.
     

The Bug really enjoys peek-a-boo books, which inspired me to add a door. She hasn't quite grasped the concept of the "handle" and tries to open it by pulling on the corners. She'll get there. I also added some peek holes that she likes to poke her fingers in. The Tye-dyed bursts are squishy foam, and the black strips are felt. Bug-a-bug like to scratch these.


I added some baby faces because the Bug enjoys looking at babies in books and magazines. She likes to say "hi" to them. The top opening is the entrance for the chute, or slide, contained inside. I think small cars and balls would fit down it, but right now we just send O's down there. More foam bursts, fur, a mirror, and some duct tape rectangles finish this side off.
    

Here's the opposite side where the O's pop out! The Bug loves watching them come flying out. More babies, duct tape circles, a foam burst and some hearts for texture and interest.

"Hi, baby!"

The Bug really enjoys turning the box to look at all the different sides. She enjoys feeling the different textures. The fur is a real hit, but probably not the best choice of material. She also enjoys scratching the felt strips and squishing the foam. The mirrors on the sides are kind of freaking her our right now. She normally loves looking in the mirror, but I'm not sure if she realizes that the baby in the little mirrors are her.

In conclusion, this discovery box was a great idea. It took me most of the day to make, but I think we'll get a lot of use out of it. I think as she ages and develops, the Bug will discover different things that she likes about it.
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