Monday, July 28, 2014

Baking Monday – Rainbow Cake!

This is so exciting … I have been wanting to make a rainbow cake for awhile! But we aren't big cake eaters around here, so we waited for an occasion to share a cake with friends. We celebrated the end of Dora's summer theatre workshop with fellow actor friends, in color!

I also wanted to make it from scratch. This recipe is great!! I doubled it for this cake, which is enough for at least 20 slices. It would have been six layers … but I dropped the orange batter on the floor while mixing. I said a very loud word ("SH…UGAR!") before cleaning it up, which was a big PITA. Happily, not a drop fell on my white shirt. So the yellow layer was more orangey-yellow to make up for it. The directions call for salt but does not list it in the ingredients … I added 1/2 tsp salt to the dry ingredients (1 tsp total, since the recipe was doubled). Finding a recipe was a challenge, because I really wanted to find one that uses all-purpose flour and whole eggs. I also recommend disposable pans (unless you happen to have six identical cake pans laying around) coated with Cake Release. And Dollar Tree prices (.50 each) were much more reasonable than the grocery store ($7.00 for three!) The cake turned out very moist and yummy. This recipe would also be super scrummy with almond extract!!

Buttercream icing on top … two sticks of softened butter, one bag of powdered sugar, one teaspoon of vanilla, and milk until it was spreading consistency. That made EXACTLY enough! I don't like a super thick layer of frosting, so this was perfect. Look, all white and innocent looking … just a boring vanilla cake ...

But wait!!! Rainbows ahead!!! We were all SUPER excited to cut into this cake. The kids made a point of not telling our guests what was waiting inside!

Very yummy. Rainbows make everything better! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Baking Monday – Crunchy Nutty Muffins!

Clark saw this recipe in a Highlights magazine months ago and wanted to try them. Of the three kids, he's the one who most often helps out in the kitchen and enjoys baking with me. It took us awhile to get to making them … yay for summer vacation!

Walnuts are not my favorite, but I did enjoy these very much. They are buttery and moist, and I like the crunchiness (as promised in the title!) Plus cinnamon sugar makes everything yummy. Clark measured, poured, and mixed the ingredients and also filled the muffin cups!

I didn't get a great picture of him with the muffins, because he was excited to eat! He and a friend shared the first two and both gave them a thumbs up. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Zentangle Cookies!

So … while the kids were having their marathon decorating session, I snuck in and decorated a few for myself. I wondered if my new obsession with zentangle could be applied to cookies? 

Why yes indeed! I used a hybrid royal/glaze icing for the outlining, so the lines stayed very neat, with no blobbing or spreading. And though they were lovely as outlines, I really wanted to know what they'd look like in color ...

YAY! Love them! But super time consuming! I would MAYBE consider doing these for an order for someone very special. I used thinned out glaze for the color and a #2 tip to fill in (plus toothpicks for spreading).

I have a plan for the next round … stay tuned! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SAC – Watercolors

I broke out the watercolors last week. There are two mini square frames hanging in the bathroom that needed some new artwork. First I did a batch with straight up Crayola watercolors ...

… then mixed a batch of my own. (I liked those better.)

Then I made some some blobs … and embellished with some doodles.

It's really hard for me to let go of everything not being perfect, but the end result is charming!

Then I started with a watercolor base and added some zentangle doodles ...

… and then Prismacolors on top. I love the way it turned out!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kid Cookies!

Theo has two moods in the summer: Best Thing Ever or Worst Day Ever. If he is not currently doing a perceived Best Thing activity, he melts to the ground in Worst Day mode. He was having a Worst Day moment when I pulled out all the cookie decorating stuff. I had lots of icing leftover from an order so I baked one batch of random shapes just for them to decorate, and goodness … what a great job they did! 

I loved Dora's fireworks ...

… and Theo's (unintentional) 80's glam rock tribute.

Besides having a tray of beautiful cookies to share with friends, I also got an hour of sibling harmony. Dora and Theo had a great time decorating, and I even heard Theo say, "This is so much fun!" So happy that cookie decorating turned out to be a Best Thing.

I asked them to set aside three for me!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Baking Monday – Musical Sugar Cookies

I made this batch of cookies for Dora's church youth choir picnic.

Music notes and crosses … plus shooting stars and hearts just for fun.

Happy hearts!

And Dora made the centerpieces. Since we were having the picnic at a local park that is on a hill and notoriously windy, we needed something that would not blow away. Dora wanted to make these flowers that she saw in American Girl magazine, and came up with the idea to tape them to rocks for stability. Pretty and practical! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Art Challenge – Zentangle!

As Dora and I read through the challenge list, we saw the word "zentangle" towards the bottom and looked at each other … what in the world is that? I looked it up … and then my brain exploded. Holy cow, did this look like fun!!

This is totally addicting. For three days, it was all I wanted to do, whenever there was a free moment. Talk about a creative jump start! Besides being relaxing, it looks SO. DARN. COOL. Instant masterpiece. It only takes fifteen minutes to work up a drawing like this, but it looks SO much more complex. 

I used to do work similar to this (take a look at this folder circa 1988, which I have held on to all these years, as a remembrance of my love for all things paisley), but never knew this kind of drawing had a name. Nor did I realize how easy and fun this style is. I have an artist friend who often Pins zentangle artwork, and while I admired it, had never tried to do my own. 

The only must have supply is a good felt-tip pen. Nice drawing paper and Prismacolor pencils are also handy to have nearby. It's best to move quickly and not overthink the design and patterns. 

Interested in trying it? Here's a great how-to on getting started! 

I am crediting this style to getting me super excited about drawing again. And since coloring is just as fun and relaxing as drawing, I'm making two printable zentangle bookmarks and a medallion available for download. Have fun!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Upcycled Notebook Paper

Every year the kids bring several composition books home from school, and they are rarely all used up. It would kill me to recycle all that good paper. If a quarter or less of the book is used up, I'll trim out the old pages and keep the book to send to school next year. If less than that is blank, I'll trim out the good pages and put them in our scrap drawer. 

I ALWAYS keep a little notepad on my desk, because even though I love my electronic calendars and list makers, sometimes information needs to be more easily accessible to be helpful. Using this handy tutorial, I made up a bunch of little notepads using our surplus of lined paper. All the supplies happened to be on hand: paper, cardboard, paint sticks, binder clips, and Mod Podge. Of course, a paper cutter makes this job extra easy, but a craft knife and a metal ruler would work well, too. These pads are 4.25 x 3.5", a good size for writing short lists and easy to trim four squares out of a sheet of composition notebook paper. The glue dried and was ready to use in about an hour! Wheee! I love repurposing!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Baking Monday – Boston Cream Cupcakes

We usually stop for donuts on Sundays after church. Dora and Jeff's go-to favorite? Boston Cream! For them, I've been wanting to try the cupcake version. Since I had egg yolks leftover from the last batch of vanilla cupcakes, it seemed like a good time to give this recipe a try.

I've never made vanilla cream from scratch before, it was … interesting! It seemed pretty thick, but I guess it wasn't cooked quite enough because it was more on the runny side than fluffy after chilling overnight. And the ganache never quite thickened up, either … I ended up adding lots of confectioner's sugar to try to get it to firm up, but it was still pretty drippy. So, between the filling and the topping, these were quite messy! 

But also quite yummy! The cupcakes were very moist and springy. Best eaten right away, because by the next day, the cream kind of soaked into the cake. (Still good, but not the same pudding-like texture.)   I saved from spending a big chunk of time in the kitchen by making each part in stages over two days and am pretty proud of these messy treats.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Art Challenge – Portrait

Finding time and the motivation to draw more has been on my to-do list. I've gotten in a bad habit  lately of only working on assignment projects and neglecting my own stuff. Happily, Dora came home from school with a Summer Art Challenge! I'm in!

Instead of making a drawing of "your family," I made a drawing of my friend's family. We've been close since high school but don't get to see each other very often, due to our opposite coast residences. She has twin boys who are almost exactly the same age as Theo. The few times we've gotten together, the kids have all really enjoyed each others' company. She's been on my mind because we unfortunately missed each other during her most recent trip east (stupid long school year!), so I made this for her as a birthday / new home / miss you surprise.

It was very satisfying to work on, and I can't wait to do more!