Monday, December 24, 2007


This year I learned how to make these ornaments:
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I was inspired by The Ornament Girl. I am even more in awe of her work after trying to duplicate some of it. I used these directions as the basis of making mine.

It was fun to try a new Christmas project!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Few of My Favorites...

I took pictures over Thanksgiving Weekend to put on my MIL's shop's website and thought I would share my favorites... I really wish we had brought the better camera to use, though!
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Resolution Review

Just a quick review of my progress on my 2007 resolutions:

Spring clean and organize my house before the baby comes in March. I got a lot of this done, but not all. But, enough to be satisfied. Of course, that was months ago and it really needs to be done again!

After the baby comes, lose my pregnancy weight gain and get into good shape. The baby weight is gone. But, I could still improve on my physical fitness.

Read scriptures as a family more consistently and effectively. We are doing LOUSY in this area. Now that my son leaves at 6 am for early morning seminary, we no longer are eating together as a family for breakfast. Subsequently, we are no longer reading scriptures together. We tried reading with family prayer just before bed, but evenings are often crazy around here, little ones are tired and cranky, and I am too. I really need to think through how we can start this habit up again. Any suggestions?

Use my time more wisely. I could still do better in this, as well. I'm just not much of a routine person, but I know my days would flow better if I were. And I am so easily side tracked!

Help my daughters memorize the first 7 Articles of Faith. Actually, we did the first 10! We will probably continue working on the remainder.

Learn to decorate cakes. Emily and I took two classes together. It was quite fun, but I could still use practice. Since 2008 is the year of the birthday parties, opportunities are coming!

I have worked on my goals, but as usual there is more to be done. I'll be perfect someday. Just you wait!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Turtle Pumpkin Pie. Holy Yum!

We made this for the treat for family home evening tonight. I made my graham cracker crust from scratch, using cinnamon graham crackers, 4 T butter and 1/4 c sugar baked for 10 min at 350 degrees. And then I whipped a cup of heavy whipping cream with a t. of vanilla and 1/4 c. powdered sugar to use in place of the Cool Whip. Very easy and a big hit with everyone in the family!

Turtle Pumpkin Pie

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 1 hr 15 min
Makes: 10 servings, one slice each

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. caramel ice cream topping, divided
1 HONEY MAID Graham Pie Crust (6 oz.)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. PLANTERS Pecan Pieces, divided
1 cup cold milk
2 pkg. (4-serving size each) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed, divided

POUR 1/4 cup caramel topping into crust; sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecans.

BEAT milk, dry pudding mixes, pumpkin and spices with whisk until blended. Stir in 1-1/2 cups whipped topping. Spread into crust.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour. Top with remaining whipped topping, caramel topping and pecans just before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Not the slobbery on your belly kind. The luscious, juicy red kind.

My favorite thing I grow in our garden is the raspberries. Not only are the just about the tastiest thing I grow, they are also one of the easiest, and the best value for my efforts. If I had to buy my raspberries from the store, my family would rarely get them because they are so expensive!

Picking them was so much fun with Elsie this year. There is just something satisfying about seeing your 2 year old delightedly picking and eating berry after berry until her mouth and fingers are stained red. I really should have put down the berry bucket and taken some pictures, huh?

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Raspberry harvest is over now, and I had accumulated a large stash of cleaned, smashed and frozen berries. So, yesterday was jam making day. I finished with 64 cups of raspberry and raspberry pear freezer jam. I ran out of freezer containers and even used a couple baggies. It was either that or sippy cups. And believe it or not it will all be long gone before the tasty berries are back next year.

And in case anyone was wondering, some if it will soon be found in a freezer in NJ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Conference Notes

Ideas from General Conference that really touched me...

- We can't do it along, but we can pray for help and we will recieve it.

Bednar- Becoming sanctified is not a result of working harder or having increased self-discipline, but rather through the atonement of Christ. It is done through slow, steady spiritual growth, not sporadic bursts.

Eyring- Ask each day, "How have I seen the hand of God touch my life or the lives of those in my family today?"

Beck - Be a mother that KNOWS. Create a climate of spiritual growth in the home. Point children towards the temple. The home is an MTC. Have children work alongside you during homemaking tasks. Growth occurs best in a home of order. PLAN for the future of your family. Simplify. Don't try to have it all. Preparing this generation is true influence and power.

Cook- We will be most effective in our callings when we focus on love, faith and prayer. I need to get a copy of the "Preach My Gospel" to use as a resource in our home.

Callister- The first opportunity for sharing testimonies should be in the home. We only need one witness to have a strong testimony, our own. Pray not to lose it.

- Look for opportunities to serve- don't just say "call if you need anything". It is better to do many small, seemingly insignificant acts of service, than nothing at all. Our church calling does not let us off the hook from serving families, neighbors and community.

Oaks- Just because something is good, doesn't mean we should do it. Some choices are good, others are better, others are best. Pick the best. Super family activities are good, but not better than one on one time with a parent. Don't magnify the work, simplify it. In our callings what matters most is not frills and embellishments, but that individuals are administered to, uplifted and changed.

Possible Goals:

1. Spend less time on the internet. Make my "me" time truly restorative instead of vegetative. Spend my time doing the "best" choices.

2. Plan for opportunities for one on one time with each child.

3. Spend more of my time serving, even in little ways. Actively seek ways I can do this for my family, friends and neighbors.

4. Focus on love, faith, prayer and administering, uplifting and changing individuals in my calling.

5. Have a family testimony meeting for fhe one night.

6. Order a copy of "Preach My Gospel." Use it to make our home an MTC.

7. Streamline and simplify our home. Seek opportunities to have children work along side me during homemaking tasks. (Have a different child each night help me make dinner?)

8. Do better in my personal study and prayer. Study the role of the atonement in the process of sactification. Stop thinking I need to do it on my own, humble myself and ask for more divine help.

9. Focus daily on the blessings that the Lord has given me and my family. I have to still figure out exactly how to do this.

As usual, I went into conference feeling pretty good about things and came out realizing how far I have yet to go. But, feeling inspired to try to go there!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Easy Breakfasts

Marvin started taking early morning seminary this year. Which means he needs to leave the house by 6 am. I'll happily get up that early to see him off and make him a lunch, but I just don't have it in me to make him breakfast that early. Since he is gone almost 10 hours, he really needs to have a good breakfast before he goes.

I love how having freezer meals makes my dinner making easier, so I thought I would apply the same approach to making breakfasts. So, I spent Monday morning making muffins, pumpkin nut bread, wheat bread and freezer biscuits. (And some frozen ginger cookie dough.) I can just put out a frozen item on the table the night before and it is thawed and ready to eat in the morning.

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Freezer biscuits were served at a victorian bed and breakfast in Iowa. They are a very clever way to have quick, hot, homemade biscuits in the morning. No prethawing required.

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Another easy breakfast is to layer yogurt, fruit and granola to make a breakfast parfait. If we make one in disposable cup with a plastic spoon, it makes a great on the go meal. ItyBtyFrog has a great crock pot granola recipe on her blog.
Here are the recipes for the muffins/pumpkin nut bread, freezer biscuits, and just because ItyBty is looking for one, for General Tsao's Chicken.

Pumpkin Nut Bread/Muffins

(I double this and it makes 3 dozen muffins, a medium loaf and 4 mini loaves. And its absolutely incredible with chocolate chips added!)

1 cup oil
2 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin, pureed
1 cup orange juice
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spray 2 large and one smaller loaf pans with cooking spray. Line bottoms with waxed paper. Spray waxed paper.

3. Cream oil and sugar.

4. Mix in eggs, pumpkin and orange juice. (If fresh pumpkin is not pureed, blend eggs and pumpkin in blender first.)

5. Pile flour on top of wet ingredients. Stir remaining dry ingredients into flour.

6. Pile one cup of the chopped nuts on top of dry mixture, then mix dry ingredients in with wet until just moistened.

7. Pour into prepared pans. Sprinkle tops with remaining nuts.

8. Bake 50 to 55 minutes for large loaves, 35 minutes for mini loaves, 20 minutes for muffins till pick done. Cool on wire rack 10 min. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Freezer Biscuits

4 cups flour
8 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg

1. Mix dry ingredients and cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives till shortening is pea sized.

2. Add remaining ingredients and stir till just combined.

3. Generously flour two cookie sheets and with floured hands, pat out half of the dough on each. Cut into 2 inch squares. (Can also cut out using a biscuit cutter)

4. Put cookie sheets in freezer. Once biscuts are frozen, transfer to an airtight freezer bag.

5. To bake, place desired amount of frozen biscuits on greased cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 min in an oven preheated to 375 degrees.

General Tsao's Chicken

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (opt.)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups oil
1/4 cup scallion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Heat oil. Cut up chicken into 1 to 2 inch cubes. Coat with beaten egg. Then coat with cornstarch.

2. Fry in oil till golden. Remove from oil and put in strainer. Gently loosen pieces with large spoon. Return to oil for 30 sec. more.

3. Remove and drain.

4. Mix first eleven ingredients to form brown sauce.

5. Heat brown sauce with scallion till thickened. Add chicken, stir and heat through.

6. Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil and serve.

For more great Works For Me Wednesday Ideas, check out Shannon's blog!

Monday, September 10, 2007


That is what we are.

For family home evening tonight we had a "surprise" preparedness drill. A fake phone call alerted us to a Chemical spill on the freeway near our home and gave us 5 minutes to gather everything we would need to survive for the next 3 days. Everyone scrambled and five minutes later we found ourselves all loaded in the van. Our lack of preparedness was then obvious:

We had only a jug of apple juice. No water.
Our only source of shelter,warmth and bedding were two pillows and a Maddy sized poncho.
Our shoes were mostly flip flops, church shoes or sandals.
Only 2 of us had a change of clothing.
We had $10 cash.
Our food consisted of a half eaten loaf of raisin bread, a half eaten box of crackers and a box of granola bars.
Our partial 72 hour kit and comprehensive first aid kits were still in the basement.
And we totally had forgotten about the dog.

Worst of all, during those 5 minutes we managed to misplace Elsie. Turns out she had gotten her shoes and climbed into the car like she was supposed to. We lost precious time figuring that out, however.

To our credit we had plenty of diapers and wipes, toothpaste, a full tank of gas and our important documents. But not the wills.

We decided that not only should we have a complete 72 hour kit, but also an evacuation plan that included stewardship of little ones and pets. Although I knew where the 72 hour kit and first aid kits were, no one else did. And I couldn't carry them and the baby, and so I had focused on the documents and diapering needs. Hopefully, in a real emergency we would have more than 5 min, but even so it probably would be better to keep our emergency stuff more accessible to the car, and have everyone clearly know where it is.

So, now we have a plan of who does what and takes care of whom. Securing the little ones in the car will be first on the list. And in the coming weeks I am going to finally get that 72 hour kit up to date and complete. We are then going to redrill and see how we do....

My preparedness mission for this week: 2 gallons of water per person per day for drinking/sanitation and cooking needs. For our family that is 14 gallons. I'm thinking that three of these might be the way to go.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Art Class

My two oldest daughters are really lucky to each have a friend their
age that both lives in our neighborhood and goes to church with us.
They have enjoyed spending a lot of time together this summer. Most of
that time has been unstructured fun time, but the mom of my daughter's
friends and I have also tried to give them some structured learning
fun, as well. So, every week they go to their friends' house for
cooking/baking class, and every week they come here for art class.

It has been really fun teaching them art. I've tried each week to teach
them a little art appreciation, talking about art history and focusing
on a different master artist each week. Last week we were learning
about "Abstract Expressionism" and "Action" art, with a focus on
Jackson Pollack. And so our project was, of course, to do a painting in
his style:

They called it "Kitty Slip" because it looked like a kitty slipped through the paint. At the end of summer we will have an art show to show of their work and sample some of their tasty cooking. It should make for a fun evening!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

On the way back from the Pioneer Trek... husband's wagon fell off the road. His station wagon!

They had just finished up their trek experience (Which went great, by the way.) and had swung through McDonald's to get dinner. My husband's inspection sticker had expired and a cop pulled him over. As he pulled off the road, there wasn't much shoulder, so he pulled partially into the grass and weeds along the side of the road. Only, the grass and weeds were concealing a ditch. His left wheels slid off and the rest of the car followed.

In the car with him were 4 of the youth from the trip, including our son Marvin. Miraculously, no one was hurt, not even the car. A tow truck pulled it out and except for a scratch on the forward door and some mud, there was no evidence it had just been in a ditch on its side. Even the sideways super size sodas in the center console managed not to leak!

The kids thought it was great. They were hanging in their seatbelts sideways, laughing and taking pictures of themselves. A lot of the people from the trek stopped to offer assistance and take pictures. It looked like an Amish convention on the side of the road.

P.S. The cop felt sorry for him and didn't give him a ticket. The tow truck cost a lot less than the ticket would have. But, we still think it is an extreme technique for getting out of a ticket and don't recommend it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

O Pioneers...

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My husband and son left on Monday to participate in a pioneer trek, a recreation of the experience of handcart pioneers. Here is my husband, dressed and ready to go. (Marvin left early and I missed getting a picture of him.)

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Isn't he handsome? The girls and I were jealous and decided we would have our own pioneer experience while they were gone. Did you ever see those PBS historical reality shows, such as Frontier House and 1900 House? We tried to recreate our own version. I'll let the girls journal entries tell the story:


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June 12, 2007

To be a pioneer is fun, but hard! First, we built a loaf of homemade bread. Then we got 3 and a half bucketfulls of cherries. It was fun! When I was a pioneer girl I felt that I hardly had any free time. I would bring in water from the well. Then I would wash in the basin. Then I would watch Cyrus while Mom built dinner. What I liked best about being a pioneer is when we picked cherries for a homemade pie. Yumm! What I did not like about being a pioneer is doing all that work! Not very much play time, and always work, work, work! What I learned is pioneer life is hard. I want to do it again!

PS. We also made butter!


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June 12, 2007

We picked cherries and made a pie. We fetched water from the well. We waltzed. We lit candles. We swam in the pond. I crocheted. It was fun. We ate pancakes, eggs and sausage. We built butter and bread and biscuits. We weeded, pitted cherries, broke beans and picked peas. I hope to do this again!


We also read histories of our pioneer ancestors, bathed in a big wash tub in the kitchen with water we heated on the stove and did rag curls. Well, I didn't bathe in the wash tub or have rag curls, but the girls did. I did do some laundry in my big black enamel pot and rinsed it out in the pond (wading pool). In the dark. So my neighbors wouldn't think I was nuts! And for the record, we cheated. We chose to stick with modern diapering and toileting. Because I really am not crazy.

I learned:

I would not have made for an attractive pioneer. The "no make up, hair parted down the middle and worn tightly in a bun, hairy leg" look does not become me.
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Their lives were focused on feeding their families. The vast majority of my time was spend gardening, picking produce, cooking and cleaning up after meals. As long as there had been enough food, I would have liked this part of pioneer life. I really enjoyed the cooking, baking and gardening.

Their lives were simpler, but much more exhausting.

They spent a lot more time interacting with each other.

After spending two days thinking about what kind of lives my ancestors lived, I started to consider what they would think about the way we live today. I decided they would have been in wonder about many things such as refridgerators, freezers, cars and phones. But, they would have considered much of what we fill our lives with as excessive and unnecessary. And our use of resources as wasteful.

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It was a good learning experience and a fun way to kick off our summer!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

New things in the past few weeks...

Peonies in bloom...
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These are my all time favorite flower.

Rug and Furniture...
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I love ebay! These antique chairs were found during the restoration of the former mansion of the first Senator from West Virginia. (And no it wasn't Byrd!) $35 each. The rug was a "like new" for $85.

Green paint...

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We finally got the family room painted. I'm still not sure I like the shade!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blooming in my garden right now...

The Columbine Fairy Song

Who shall the chosen fairy be
For letter C?
There's Candytuft, and Cornflower blue,
Campanula and Crocus too,
Chrysanthemum so bold and fine,
And pretty dancing Columbine.

Yes, Columbine! The choice is she;
And with her, see,
An elf in piper, piping sweet
A little tune for those light feet
That dance among the leaves and flowers
In someone's garden.
(Is it ours?)

Yes, it is!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bee pet? Not your best bet!

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Over the weekend our ward had a party at a nearby state park. In our ward we have an entomologist, who also happens to enjoy children, and subsequently brings assorted creepy crawlies to ward events to educate and entertain the kids. He brought a beehive this time, housing 6,000 bees, give or take a few. This made several of the mothers nervous, but the fearless kids were delighted. They got to try on bee keeper hats and see how the smoke is used to make the bees docile, and then caught them in nets.

The best part was getting to eat the honey. Some even ate bee larva. Ewww!
Maddy became enamored with a bee she caught and asked if she could keep it. So, both girls came home with pet bees. This isn't as dangerous as it sounds, since they were both males and had no stingers. They lovingly served them drops of honey and made soft beds for them out of lamb's ear. Unfortunately, Maddy's bee, "BB" was lost as he was carried outside, and Emily's bee, "Bumble", passed away yesterday. It was heartbreaking to them both, but not unexpected, as they had been told they would not survive more than a couple days away from the colony.

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Sadly, some %70 of the honeybee populations around the world have suffered tragic losses recently. I guess a mite that the bees get carries a virus that is causing the problem. But, a couple weeks ago the military was able to isolate the virus. Hopefully, they will now be able to find a treatment. It's not just honey that we'll miss otherwise. The bees are relied on to pollinate a huge percentage of the fruits and vegetables we eat, as well.

PS. Cyrus had his 2 month check up yesterday. He is now 15 lbs 1 oz, or just half a pound shy of having doubled his birth weight!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's My Blogiversary!

My first blog post was one year ago today!

My blogging has gone through phases of greater and lesser activity over that time. I didn't blog as much in the last portion of that year as I did the first. I'm not sure if it was due to winter doldrums or the effects of pregnancy. It may even have to do with the fact that I like to post pictures with my posts, and I just don't have as many fun photo opportunities when the weather is poor and we're confined indoors, or aren't taking as many trips. I do love having documentation of the last year of my and my family's life. A lot has happened in this past year: having a new baby, fun family trips, milestones in my children's lives, becoming Primary President, a new motorcycle...

To celebrate, I was going to leave links to some of my favorite posts from the last year. But, instead, I am going to link to this post. It seems that the world of the world wide web is small indeed. The boy I admitted to having a crush on in 6th grade found my blog post about him and left a comment! I suppose including his full name in the post made his finding it very possible, although it certainly did not occur to me at the time. Anyways, Brant, if you happen to come back, thanks for the visit, the comment, and for outgrowing that hairdo! (And I hope you are well, too!)

On a side note, I started my new year's resolution "to get back into shape after the baby comes" today. I took before pictures to help inspire me. For a moment I considered posting them here. You, know, for the accountability thing. Then thought better of it. They are not pleasing to be viewed. But, more importantly, the previously mentioned incident clinched my decision. I'm pretty sure, "Hey, I used to have a crush on you, and check out this pouch I've got now..." is not the message I'm trying to promote here!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

He's Here!

Announcing the birth of Cyrus Grant!

Born March 13th at 1:05 am. 7 lbs 12 oz. 19 1/2 inches long. He's home from the hospital, healthy and doing well!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Nesting or Keeping Busy While I Wait

Yesterday was my due date, and still no baby! I've been trying to keep my mind off the fact that I'm still pregnant by keeping busy. I don't know if it is nesting, my desire for spring to finally get here, or just desperate attempts to distract myself. But, here is what we've been up to...

Practicing cake decorating:

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More Spring Cleaning, including organizing the kid's arts and crafts cupboard:

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Getting the drapes in the dining room hung:

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Please ignore all the pictures all over the table, I'm still rearranging them after

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It may be the fact that I miss the spring sunshine, but I decided I wanted my living room, entry hall and laundry room all painted yellow. It makes them seem much more bright and cheerful, especially the laundry room and hall, which have no windows. It is Wal Mart's Chanternelle, which strangely enough is a type of mushroom. It actually is a bit more gold, and less lemony in real life.

And there is an end in sight to this eternally long pregnancy. I am scheduled for induction Monday. But, I hope we go sooner!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The New Nursery Mural

Remember how the nursery used to be covered with the flower fairy mural? (If not, you can see them here and here.) Well, since we are having a boy this time, we really needed to change that! My inspiration was a painting and poem by one of my favorite artists, Greg Olsen, called Airship Adventures:

"All aboard the kitchen table for a journey to the sky!
It's now our magic airship, and it can really fly!
Off on new adventures, above the clouds we go,
Sailing on imagination's breeze, we leave the earth below.
For fun we like to parachute and quietly float down,
And have our vessel pick us up before we hit the ground.
Up here there are no limits to the sights that one can see,
And we think that we could sail forever into eternity.
Then comes the call that sends us home as fast as we are able,
It's dinner time, and Mother says we have to set the table."

So, the new nursery is based on vintage airplanes:

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And close ups of the airplanes:
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And my favorite:
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I was able to keep the clouds from the previous mural, and it didn't take nearly as much time. Which was really good, since painting with a 2 yr old wanting to help presented a challenge!

My mom has finished quilting his baby quilt, done in reproduction vintage fabrics from the 30's. She'll be bringing it out when my parents come see the baby and his blessing. I'm excited to see it!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Primary Organizing and Cake Decorating

That’s what I’ve been up to these days. Two and a half weeks ago I was surprised to learn that our church ward was split into two, and I was subsequently released from my calling as Primary President. Two hours later I was called as the Primary President in the newly formed ward. So, we were back to square one in getting everything organized in Primary for the new year. Actually, having managed to get everything super organized before (thanks to my wonderful counselors!) made the transition so much smoother than it would have been!

I also finished one of my New Year Resolutions by taking a cake decorating class with my daughter Emily. Our last class was last night, and here we are with our final “masterpieces”.

I found the most difficult part of cake decorating to be getting the consistency of the frosting correct. Last night, I misplaced the recipe our teacher gave us and had to make a brand new recipe, and made it too thin. Which really made decorating our cakes last night a challenge, but I think we did okay. It was a class for adults, but they let Emily in anyways and she did really well. I was very impressed that after getting very frustrated with trying to make roses and wanting to give up, she faced her frustrations, jumped back in and learned to make a pretty decent rose. We enjoyed the class so much, that we are going back next month for the sequel!

So, in honor of Works for Me Wednesday, here are some cake decorating tips, both old and new:


1. To keep your cake from sticking to the pan, line the bottom of your pan with waxed paper, spray it with non stick cooking spray, and then pour the batter in. After the cake is done, cool for 10 min, no more or less, and then remove from the pan to finish cooling on a cooling rack. It comes out super easy, and you simply pull the waxed paper off and find a perfectly smooth bottom! (This is actually I tip I learned from my mother in law.)

2. To keep crumbs out of the frosting, first brush your cake gently to remove excess crumbs. Then apply a “crumb coat” of frosting. This is a very thin layer of frosting that seals in the crumbs. Let the cake sit until the frosting is set, then put on your final frosting coat. (Putting the cake in the fridge helps set the frosting quicker.)

3. Don’t have decorating supplies or want to try to decorate with frosting? Use small toys, or even pictures on cardstock to decorate with. Find them on greeting cards or in scrapbooking stores. Tape a toothpick or straw to the back to get them to “stand up” on the top of your cake, or just lay them flat. The cardstock will start to absorb oils from the frosting, so don’t place on the cake too far in advance. Once removed, and the frosting is carefully removed, you can save your cake “topper” to put in the child’s scrapbook.

4. Instead of writing “Happy Birthday!” on top of your cake, write the child’s name and age. Such as “Marvin is 3!”. Unless your kid has an unusually long name, it is shorter to write, and years later when you come across the picture of the cake, you’ll instantly know whose cake it was and for which year!


1. To get a flat cake, instead of one that bulges on top, either buy and use bake even strips (about $8) to prevent the bulge, or use a serrated knife or cake leveler (about $3) to trim off “the bulge”.

Bake Even Strips

Cake Leveler

Then use the bottom of the cake as a nice flat cake top.

2. You can buy an 8 x 3 inch round cake pan and bake an entire cake mix in it, instead of using two separate rounds. Just lower the bake temp 25 degrees and bake it a little longer. One less pan to clean and no layers to deal with! Your final cake will be slightly shorter than a layered cake would be.

3. To measure 1 c. of shortening easily, put 1 c. cold water in a 2 c. glass measuring cup. Then add spoonfuls of shortening until the water line reaches the
2 c. mark, pour off the water, and you have a perfect 1 c. amount of shortening left that easily slips out and doesn’t leave a greasy mess in the cup. Works because of displacement. I don’t think I will use this trick for making my pies, though, because you are left with damp shortening.

4. To apply a frosting coating, use an angled, or offset, spatula to spread your icing. Works much better than the butter knife I used for years!

Angled spatula

5. To get a smooth frosting surface, frost as smoothly as you can, then let the cake sit until the frosting starts to set. (Touching it lightly with your finger, your finger comes back clean.) Then lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the surface and use your spatula or hand to gently smooth out any bumps. It is important that your frosting not be too thin, or it will take forever to set.

Edited: At Sketchy's request, here is the frosting recipe our teacher gave us:

1 c crisco
1 T clear flavoring (she uses 1 t. each of vanilla, almond and butter. DH doesn't like the almond, so I use 2 t. vanilla instead.)
pinch of salt

Mix well. Then slowly add:

2 lb 10x powdered sugar

Mix till well blended, then add

1/4 c. water.

Beat till smooth.

This will make 6 cups of "stiff consistency" frosting, good for making stiff decorations like roses. This frosting remains soft, and will not harden. Add more water, as needed, to thin frosting for icing the cake and decorations that need to be done with thinner icing, such as writing, stars and shells. If you add too much water, you can add powdered sugar to thicken it.