Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cake: Professional vs. Semi-homemade

Last night, we celebrated my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary! Sixty years! I can't even wrap my head around how long and wonderful that is.  Mike and I have been together over 11 years, and married almost 2. We have been together for about 1/6 of the time my grandparents have been.  I can't imagine what 50 more years of memories, hardships, triumphs and celebrations will feel like.  I can only hope that we will be blessed enough to find out! Happy Anniversary Grandma and Papa!


As with any celebration, especially in our family, there is cake! We've been getting our recent cakes from Sugar Bakery, in East Haven, CT.  There cakes are big, festive, and delicious.  There is an assortment of frosting/filling/cake options, and they always come out so polished and professional looking.

Last night's was a chocolate buttercream frosting, with chocolate cake and a raspberry mousse filling.  It was delicious, and HUGE!  Other flavors we have tried in the past were strawberries and cream, cookie dough mania, and death by chocolate.  All beautiful and decadent:






I was spoiled and had 2 at my birthday party! 

So there's definitely a place in my heart for celebratory bakery cakes.  On the other hand, I love to bake...and although buying a gorgeous cake from the bakery is easy and festive, it's just as special to make one yourself.  

One trick I love to use is semi-homemade recipes.  I often with start with a box mix...I know, the horror!  Stay with me though.  By using a box mix and sprucing it up, you can still claim it as homemade and have time to do your hair and make up for the party--> Win/win!





All kidding aside, one of the best reasons to use this semi-homemade strategy is that you can get super-creative with your cake options and fillings.  I know I'm more apt to try something cute and challenging with the frosting/filling/shape/decor of my baked goods if part of the prep is simplified. This is a great site, One Good Thing By Jillee, that I've used for tips/tricks to spruce up a boxed cake mix.

Some of my favorite options for cake + filling + frosting combinations are:


One last note before you get up to your elbows in frosting and flour...I use a variety of recipes for my frostings and fillings, and often play around with buttercream or cream cheese.  Because the cake mix itself is already from a mix, the fresh frosting and add-ins help to revive and highlight the cake.  Happy Baking! 

What's your favorite cake/filling flavor? 

Do you have any semi-homemade tricks or cheats worth sharing? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Water, water...everywhere!

Mike and I are house-hunting...we have been for quite a while actually.  We started out pretty casual and excited to visit open houses and see what was out there last fall.  Now, we're picking up speed a little and making appointments with our realtor.  It's getting a bit more intense, as we are super-nervous about the largest purchase of our lives so far, PLUS we know home ownership will bring a slew of obstacles and challenges.  We actually had a taste of it last weekend with the dreaded...water in the basement!


Yep, that's the basement in the Cape house we were visiting for a relaxing weekend.  Unfortunately, when we got there and turned the water on in the house, the hot water heater burst about 10 hours later.  


We were lucky to find it when we did, and there was about 4 inches of water in the basement.  Our first step for clean up was to safely turn off the water in the house (we were careful to check if the water level had reached the height of electric sources or wires that may be dangerous).  After calling a plumber to come deal with the hot water heater, we had to work on getting the water out of the basement.




source for air mover
source for pump

We rented a utility pump and commercial grade air mover from our local True Value up there, and began pumping water out of the basement through the bulk head door.  

Try to laugh a bit...there are worse things in life
then a little water in the old basement! 

The next steps involved:
- Removing items that would need help drying (we put them outside in the sun)
- Sweeping water towards the pump and away from the corners of the basement and towards the pump
- Using the large commercial air mover fan (also rented from True Value) to dry out the damp spots once excess water was removed




The last steps involved lots of ice cream as a reward, a walk to the beach, and cuddling with some cute puppies to help balance the chaos of a hectic weekend!


Although it was a bit stressful, it was also a reassuring to find that we could deal with water in the basement in a pretty efficient way, even never having encountered it before.  Here's a play-by-play of how we handled it and what worked for us.


Removing water from basement:

1. Safely turn off water after checking that the water level has not risen past electrical sources
2. Call a plumber to deal with the source (the hot water heater that had burst)
3. Visit a local hardware store to rent a utility pump and commercial air mover fan
4. Set up pump safely (use an outlet that is above water level) in a central area
5. Open any windows or doors to allow ventilation to the area.
6. Remove items from basement that need to dry out.  Bring into sun or another dry/ventilated area
7. Sweep water towards pump as the water level will begin decreasing.
8. Set up air mover fan on damp areas (where excess water is already removed) and point it inward towards pump
9. Continue sweeping and moving fan as needed
10. Wait until basement and items removed from basement are fully dry before putting things back together.

*This process took about 2 full days start (time the water was turned off) to finish (when items could be moved back in).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston

After Monday's incident at the Boston Marathon, a multitude of feelings arise: anger, sadness, fear, anxiety...  For the people directly involved, and masses of Americans, we are grieving and processing through this horrific time together.  

It is human nature to want to feel helpful and hopeful during these times of incredible despair.  This does not negate the emotions that we are all continuing to reel from after Monday.  On the contrary, these moments of hope allow us to move forward through our grief. 



Despite the great horror, there have been acts of valor, kindness, and humanity that allow us to see the good and rise up against the fear and hurt.  These moments of hope and spirit should be noted, enjoyed, and internalized in a way that helps heal the broken hearts of so many Americans.



If you missed the National Anthem at the Bruins game on Wednesday evening, the clip is linked to the picture below.  As our country heals and comes together, our strength is resurged by our resilience.   Use the good you see during this time to combat the fear and evil, as you heal yourself and help & pray for others.  


My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the people of Boston, first responders, victims, families, and friends. 




Monday, April 15, 2013

Sperrys

With spring in the air, and summer looming, I got quite a craving for yummy, light.... shoes! I ordered 2 pairs from 6pm.com  (a great discount site that I can only say positive things about).

I went on thinking I would just find a pair of boat shoes to feed my craving, but after browsing the 100+ options, I found myself torn among the dozens of color-combinations, subtle style changes, and glitzy prints and textures.  I narrowed it down to two pairs.


The gold pair is Sperry Top-Sider Bluefish 2-eye, and the silver pair is Sperry Top-Sider Laguna.  The gold are more of a classic Sperry style, but taken up a notch with the metallic gold finish and rough burlap side details.  The silver pair are designed to be more of a mocassin-like style, but still appear to be very much a boat shoe.  Both are water-resistant, and so comfortable!


So, I think you can guess what happened... I got both, but hear me out! I think they'll be great for all of spring and summer (the gold can probably work in the fall too!).  I can wear them to work, shopping, out, and hanging around on the Cape.  I put together the outfit below the other day for work.





Royal Blue Skinny Pants - Express
V-neck T-shirt - Banana Republic
Animal Print Sweater - Old Navy
Silver Studs - Ann Taylor Loft
Silver and Rose Gold Watch - Michael Kors
Silver Shoes - Sperry Top-Sider

All in all, I think this outfit was a nice balance of color, neutral,  eye-catching accents like the animal print, shoes and jewelry. It was also so comfortable, without looking sloppy. 


Happy feet signing off!


Is there a article of clothing or accessory that screams spring/summer to you? 

Do you own a pair of Sperrys? Do you love them? 



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Author's Craft for Writing

Wow, yesterday I was as busy as a bee.  I went to bed and slept like a log.  My bed called to me!

In case those first 3 sentences didn't obnoxiously give away the focus of this post, I'm going to talk about author's craft...specifically - Figurative Language and Golden Bricks.  Both are techniques I use to teach my students how to breath life into their writing.


As we worked through the various techniques, I have students practice them in isolation, and then work on incorporating them in their various writing activities, such as free writes, paragraphs, essays, memoirs, etc.


I also have them look at completed writing assignments and use highlighters or colored pencils to show where they have used them (or where their writing is lacking these techniques).


By this point in the year, my students have become accustomed to using these tricks of the trade seamlessly in their writing, but sometimes need reminders to include them in order to break up their detail sentences.  To help with this, and to serve as a resource, I created notebook pages for them to keep in their writing journals (see below).


If you're interested in this mini-poster set + notebook pages, please visit my TPT store (link is on the right side of my blog).  This set is free! It includes 12 mini posters + 2 notebook pages.  The posters and pages are color coded to highlight the difference between figurative language and golden bricks.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Arm Candy

Spring has sprung around here, and it always makes me feel like I need to organize and clean everything around me.  The problem is, I sometimes get hyper focused on less important projects.
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So this past weekend, cleaning floors and doing dishes lost the battle for my attention, and my blingy costume jewelry got my focus.  Organizing my jewelry became a matter of critical importance for me.  Seriously, it was like I was obsessed.

I plan at some point in the future to get a gorgeous jewelry armoire for my bedroom, and some drawer organizers as well for the overflow.   Lust-worthy...


However, we will probably move in the next year, and hopefully will purchase some new bedroom furniture (as we just have our bed on a frame and dressers handed down from my grandparents).  I don't want to spend money on anything until I'm sure what our "someday" bedroom will look like.

A girl can dream, right?!

So, I began to get creative with where to store my jewelry.  I used an old basket for dumping bracelets, but then realized it didn't serve my type A personality to not be able to see everything at once...so I used some old paper towel rolls, some patterned contact paper, and pretty ribbon and created small displays to house my arm candy!


As an added bonus, the rolls fit perfectly atop my basket, so it's almost like they're propped up on display.  Most of my bracelets are hinged or hooked, so they're easy to get on and off.  Some are stretchy or bangle style, so I put those near the end, and with a quick untie of the bow, they slide right off.  


I keep some of my nicer, real jewelry in boxes, so I just placed those in the center of the basket.  This is not my ideal choice for organizing, but it was cheap, simple, and will keep my arm candy neat until I'm ready for something more permanent.  Another added bonus, they'll be able to be packed and moved great this way! I'm also thinking of making a smaller one out of a toilet paper roll for traveling.

Do you have any quick, affordable tricks for spring organizing? 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Third Wheel

Growing up, my sister started dating her now husband when I was only 13.  I remember coming home from an overnight field trip to Washington, D.C. and walking in the house to my sister...with...a...boy.  I was shocked! She had never had a boyfriend before.  I asked them what they were doing, and she said they were heading out to a movie.  I asked who else was going, and she said it was just them.  My 8th grade mind was racing...and then I figured it out! 

Fast forward 17+ years later, and I couldn't be happier that they started dating.  I loved hanging out with them together, and was the 3rd wheel, as they say, for many years.  They were heading out to dinner, "I'm in"...going to a movie, "let me grab my jacket", a trip to the mall, "I could use a few things"...you get the point!  Even if they were annoyed with the lil' sister tag-along, they never let on.



Well, the hubs was away this weekend, so it was "just the three of us" together again! It was so much fun. We hung out, went out to eat (amazing food photos below...er, the food was amazing, the photos are lackluster), and went to the gym together.  





Besides being full from the delicious steak, and bigger than my face carrot cake (that baby stood a good 6 inches tall), my heart was also full! It felt so good to have some quality time with my sister and her husband, and Stella loved playing with her cousin dog, Brady.  She was sad to leave! 



Was there ever a time you felt like the third wheel? 


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Starting Off


Hi there! Hola! Howdy? Hello....  How does one start their very first blog post EVER?  I'm sure in time I'll find it more natural to greet the world wide web with my posts, but for now I'm stuck in an awkward place.
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My plan for this blog is to post when I have something to say, and try my best to have it be a place where my trials, test-runs, attempts, and fails can help others benefit! It'll also have a mix of my daily life happenings, so readers can get a sense of me (and determine whether they want to replicate my successes or do the exact opposite as to avoid being anything like me!).  Haha

Today is my first soccer game of my spring 2013 season.  I'm excited for it, but as always am nervous about getting hurt (not a spring chicken anymore)!


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After a couple knee surgeries, days of not being able to walk properly, and a bunch of minor injuries, a soccer game for me is a mix of extreme fun and severe anxiety.  It's like a super-oxymoron!   Regardless, I'm still pumped to play on this gorgeous spring morning. Wish me luck!

Is there anything in your life that creates such opposing emotions? 

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