Friday, September 30, 2011

Cute monsters

Behold, my little monsters. (Sorry, I seem to have had a Gaga moment there...)
These were actually fun and easy to make. I should probably have done it as a young women's activity, but seeing as I was just winging it, I'm not sure that would have been wise.

What you need:
4 pieces of 2x4, cut 8-10 inches long
Green acrylic paint
White acrylic paint
Googly eyes (opt, but fun!)
Permanent markers (black and red)
black foam board
2 bolts
Black stamp pad

Hans cut the boards for me at 9 inches. The edges need some sanding to smooth out rough edges and make all the corners less sharp. I just think it looks better with slightly rounded edges.

Paint two pieces white and one piece green. Leave the last unpainted. One the painted boards, take your stamp pad and just kinda.... brush it all over. I focused on the edges and corners and did a few light streaks down the middle. I didn't use a brush or paper towel or anything, I just rubbed the stamp pad straight onto the wood.
For Frankenstein, I cut his hair out of the foam board and glued that on along with some googly eyes. I screwed the bolts in toward the bottom and used the permanent marker to draw on the mouth and stitches.
For Dracula: His collar and widow's peak are just triangles cut from foam board and glued on. The eyes and mouth are permanent marker. I supposed you could paint on the blood drops, but it was late and I happen to have a red sharpie, so there ya go.
The skull was made from cutting three wonky shapes from the foam board, and then using a sharpie for the mouth and the outlines of the top of the skull and cheeks.
And the mummy, who was probably the easiest. I glued his googly eyes on first. I found a roll of gauze in our medicine cabinet. I glued one end at the bottom, wrapped up and back down and then glued the other end in place. Then I brushed the ink pad all over him, just like I did for the other three.

And that's it! The cuts weren't exactly straight so they're a little wobbly. I might put some sort of little footie piece underneath to help them stand better. Then they'll go in the entry way. Can't wait to put all my decorations up this weekend!

(Inspired by these guys over here!)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Hudson

Hudson is happy daddy's home.
Too bad he got caught red-handed upstairs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All before 9:30 am

Today's one of those days where the universe is trying to tell me I should have stayed in bed.

We came home from the gym and walked into this....

The little stinker got in the trash and found a cake mix I had thrown away. He was covered in it. Hans was confused when we walked in because he actually thought a random dog was in our house.

And then Hans left for work with my keys. So I had to call him and make him come back because I was stuck. And late for work.

And then I got bit by a spider. On the top of my foot. No joke.

And then my 10-mile commute took 50 minutes.

And I should have just stayed in bed today.

Pumpkin pound cupcakes

It's time! I love when pumpkin season starts. So even though it's still 100 degrees, I'm trying to kick start fall by baking with pumpkin.

Enter these pumpkin cupcakes. I found the recipe from Sweet and Savory and I love that it took absolutely no time or effort. My favorite kind.

What you need:
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Cups Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
4 Eggs
1/2 Cup Milk
3/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1 Stick of unsalted Butter, at room temperature

Add all ingredients into a stand mixer. Turn it on (I used speed 2) and leave it for 20 minutes. I watched part of an episode of Damages. It's a good show. Spoon it into cupcake liners. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

For the icing:
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/4 Shortening
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
3 Tbs. milk

Cream together the butter and shortening. Add in the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix 'til combined. Add in powdered sugar gradually and milk and beat to desired consistency. When the cupcakes are cool, ice and scarf.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

I'm all about the crock pot lately. Especially the "throw it in and turn it on" variety. This one fits that bill. And Hans loves it. That makes it a winner in my book.

What you need:
Chicken breasts (3-4)
2 T. butter
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Pillsbury grands (yes, I used the kind in a can!)

Put chicken in pot. Add butter.
Toss in soups and onion and season with salt and pepper.
Cook on high for 5-6 hours.

Pull the chicken out. Shred with two forks. Add back into the pot. Cut up the grands biscuits and toss them on top of the mixture. Cook another 30 minutes.


Recipe originally from Bubble Crum.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sugar hangover

I'm feeling like an old lady today. An old lady with a major sugar hangover. I think all you do on your birthday is eat (exhibit a, b and c below). But it was a truly marvelous birthday. Thanks to everyone for the calls, texts, facebook messages and generally making me feel spoiled and loved. 

Yummy birthday sampler with work peeps at Second Bar and Kitchen
My co-workers picked up these amazing cupcakes from Delish. These are just the leftovers!
Wonderful hubby took me to PF Changs where we got my favorite, the Great Wall of Chocolate

Friday, September 16, 2011

Boo! theme continues

Can you tell I'm on a holiday decorations kick lately?

I saw this cute boo sign on "Then she made" and thought, "hey, that looks easy!" And it was. Messy, but easy.

What you need:
Chipboard letters (Hobby Lobby)
Halloween scrapbook paper
Modge podge

Hobby Lobby has these on sale all the time. I think it was 89 cents or something.
Don't cut the paper. Do not make any cuts yet. You didn't cut, did you?

Brush a pretty good layer of modge podge on the front of the first letter. Lay it face down on the back of the paper. Turn it over and smooth out any bumps and set it aside to dry. Repeat with the other two letters, giving the first time to dry.
The back of mine is messy. No clean edges here. No one sees... who cares?
Trim off excess paper, leaving about a half inch of paper on all sides. Brush the sides of the letter with modge podge and fold the paper around the edge to the back. It may require some ripping.

After all three letters are covered in paper, add on more thick coat of modge podge for good measure (to seal it in and give it the same texture throughout).

Add stickers. Tie together with ribbons. Annnnd done.

Boo! Yarn wreath

I've seen yarn wreaths all over the place lately and have been really wanting to try one. So.... voila!

What you need:
styrofoam form
black yarn
mustard yarn (not the bright yellow, it's too 'bumblebee')
decorative stickers (I went with 3D skeletons and spiders from Michaels)
free printable bunting banner from Pretty Ditty
hot glue

I don't know if there's an easier way to wrap yarn around a circle without tying yourself in knots. If there is, I need to know about it. I found the easiest way was to unwind a bunch of yarn off the skein. I wrapped it around my hand, which resulted in later knots. It was just easier to pass a small wad of yarn through the circle than the entire skein. 

I held the end of the yarn in place and then wrapped several pieces tightly on top of it to hold it in place. Keeping the pieces close together, I worked my way about 4 inches around the circle. I went back and did a second layer in selective parts where I felt like the white was showing through. Then I held that end in place as I wound the next color on top of it to lock it down. At the end, I glued the last tail in place with hot glue.

I used kraft paper (cardstock weight) for the printable and then sewed it together with white yarn. Even though the skeletons and spiders were stickers, they're a little weighty for stickers (and thick!) so I hot glued them in place.

It's a good weeknight craft and it was pretty fun to make.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cake with dots

I'm trying to practice decorating cakes. Only way to get better, right?

I got a bigger frosting spatula. That certainly helped. And I think I'm finally getting the hang of big beads.

But this cake was so lop-sided! I think the actual cake recipe I used was too soft for stacking. I had a hard time even leveling it.

But it sure was tasty. I found the recipe via pinterest - it's for cupcakes, but I made three 8" rounds. And put lemon curd in between. Tasty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where there's smoke

While we were in South Padre, I kept getting news alerts on my phone about wildfires in Central Texas. Sadly to say, this is so common right now I didn't think much of it. If you're not in Texas, you probably don't realize what a miserable summer we're having. We've had 80 days of triple digit heat, which broke a previous record of 69. The weekend before last, temperatures reached 110 and 112, tying the record for the hottest it's ever been in Austin. While we usually have 30 inches of rain, this year we've had a scant 8. Everyone has been on strict water restrictions and there's been a few energy scares as we try not to overload the system with demands for energy.

So basically it's very hot. And dry.

Then Sunday, a cold front moved into the area. Bringing cooler temperatures, thankfully, lower humidity, and some fierce 40 mph winds. Perfect for fires.

And they started springing up everywhere. And they've gotten bad. Check out this video from Texas Parks & Wildlife to see how fast it's moving.

The largest one is just down the road from us in Bastrop. We pass through there every time we go to Houston. Last time I checked, the fire was 20 miles wide and 24 miles long. It has burned nearly 35,000 acres and, at last count, over 700 homes. Thousands of people have been displaced and are still waiting to go home, or to see if they have a home to go to. Fires have also spring up, north, northwest, and west of where we live. Thankfully, there have only been two reported fatalities so far. Firefighters have been working around the clock to try and bring the fires under control.

Photo from Elgin Fire Department
As we were driving back from South Padre on Monday, we stopped in San Antonio for dinner. As we got out of the car, the smell of burning wood was over powering and we could already see smoke and ash in the air. Today, Austin is blanketed in smoke and ash. It's gross. And dreary.

Please say some prayers for those who have lost their homes, for those who are still displaced, and for all those very brave men and women who are still trying to stop these dangerous fires. If you're inclined to help, check out this facebook page setup by the Austin American-Statesman (way to go, guys!) to see what you can do.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Last minute get away

About a week and a half ago, as I was slogging through work, a thought struck me: "Wouldn't it be great to be on a beach right now?" The thought was so overwhelming that I started to wonder.... "How can I get my pale, pale self to a beach?"

I looked up vacation rentals on VRBO. I found people who wanted to go (way, way easier than I thought!) and bam! Saturday morning in the wee hours before dawn we loaded up the car and headed to Padre. The Krutsingers and Edwards joined us and to our great surprise and delight, the Ploegers and the Schadalees found sitters for their little ones so we could all enjoy the beach.

The beach house was super close to a very empty beach. The weather was perfect. And we had a blast.

Well.... except for one thing. One day while all the girls were lying on the beach when all of a sudden Kelsey looks up and says, confusedly, "Did Rob take off his pants?" We look out across the water and sure enough, Rob's waist deep and flapping his shorts in the air. Danielle sounds perplexed as she utters "Yup. That's my husband. Naked." He dresses and comes back up to us with a face that's clearly trying to be calm but still looks panicked. "I have to go. I'll be at the house" and takes off.

Did you know there is such a thing as sea lice? They aren't really lice - they're jellyfish larvae. They look like large grains of sand and they get caught in your suit and start stinging. Not pleasant. Rob found 15-20 in his. After he ran off we all did some thorough inspections (yes, right there on the beach, to the amusement of the man camped next to us). Mandy found a good 8-10 while the rest of us just found one or two. The Ploegers couldn't be convinced to venture back in the water, but no way that was keeping Tim, Hans, Adam and the lobster known as Josiah on dry land. We really only noticed them one day and the other two were fine.

Between the yummy breakfasts and burgers, the cool breeze, the late night card games and of course three gorgeous days in the sun, it was a wonderful getaway. I think a new tradition has been born.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mutual Activity - Cake Decorating

Yesterday's mutual activity was supposed to be class activities. But then some of my Beehives who just turned 14 realized they wouldn't get to participate in cake decorating. So they asked to join. And then the Laurels heard about it and wanted in, too.

And that's how my good friend Erin ended up teaching 15 young women some cake decorating basics. Erin - for the win.

First off, check out Erin's blog to see how awesome she is. She claims it's just a hobby right now, but she hopes to go full-time soon. She's currently taking orders for birthdays, weddings and showers, if you happen to be in the market for a kick-butt cake. These are some of her recent cakes:

She showed the girls how to level, stack and frost a cake. She also showed them how to pipe some basic buttercream designs. 

Pretty proud... my Beehives did a great job!
The Mia Maids' creation
The Laurels... they were more interested in eating....
Then she taught them some basic tips for working with fondant! They got to color it, roll it out and put some basic shapes on top of cupcakes. I have to say, they did a pretty great job! Thank you so much, Erin, for sharing your time and talents with our girls!