Tuesday, September 27, 2011

how to make the most amazing birthday cake ever.

a little while back, i mentioned my pinterest-inspired art project and how it turned out. this weekend, it was my sister's turn to attempt something that she had pinned for my niece's 4th birthday: the cake. it was quite an adventure, and we think it is only fair to everybody else who has pinned this cake that we share our experience of attempting it.   

8:00 pm - put the kids to bed. it's time to get your bake on! you have inspiration and a recipe and are ready to knock this thing out!

8:35 pm - realize that your organic from-scratch cake batter is looking more like cookie dough. this may not have been the best time to try a new recipe.

8:37 pm - consult with sister as to the best course of action.

8:38 pm - shrug, add some more milk, and carry on.

8:43 pm - gather every large vessel you own. split batter into 6 equal parts to dye all the colors of the rainbow with food coloring gel (except for indigo, because is that really even a color anymore?)

8:54 pm - abandon all now-dirtied large pots in favor of dirtying all the cereal bowls instead.

9:15 pm - put first four layers into parchment lined pans. cross your fingers and close the oven.

9:21 pm - ignore hubs inquiry as to whether or not he smells fire.

9:30 pm - confirm that something was indeed burning. but at least it wasn't the cake! make a mental note to trim the parchment paper to fit the pans next time... 

9:32 pm - express disbelief that this is really how your awesome cake is turning out. 

9:45 pm - try to determine how to proceed from this point. does a birthday party really NEED a cake?

10:05 pm - do not even bother to attempt to bake the final two layers. just trash it all. curse pinterest for putting this idea in your head.

10:14 pm - head to the grocery store.

10:22 pm - semi-seriously consider just buying a generic grocery store birthday cake.

10:23 pm - pick up boxed cake mixes and two cans of white buttercream icing. ready for round two.

10:45 pm - mix up cake batter in no time flat.

10:58 pm - use two cake mixes to make six layers of multi-colored cake. bake in oiled-and-floured pans in lieu of messing with parchment. they all turn out great.

11:45 pm - use both cans of icing to stack and dirty ice the cake. make a mental note to get more icing before the party.

12: 10 am - put cake in fridge for the night. vow to clean up the kitchen in the morning.

12:13 am - go to bed.

1:12 am - wake up, confused to hear a soothing woman's voice crooning something about BEEP BEEP BEEP CARBON MONOXIDE BEEP BEEP BEEP

1:13 am - turn off the detector. contemplate just going back to sleep.

1:14 am - figure it's probably in your best interest to call the fire department instead.

1:17 am - two firetrucks bearing some of New York's finest arrive. they inspect the house, and take readings to determine the source of the elevated CO levels.

1:23 am - the source is determined to be the oven. apparently extended baking with all the windows shut will elevate levels just enough to trip the alarm. stupid cake.

1:24 am - realize the disastrous state of your kitchen while the firemen wander about your house. kind of regret decision to clean up in the morning.

1:25 am - open all the windows and wait for CO levels to normalize. 

2:03 am - firefighters leave, looking a little disappointed that they didn't get to rip down any walls or anything.

2:05 am - go back to bed.

6:28 am - the kids wake up, because they somehow managed to sleep through all the midnight excitement.

11:45 am - husbands return from their morning excursions (on which they took the car with the carseats and ALL THE KEYS) with two more cans of icing, among other things.

12:03 pm - use another can and a half of icing to cover the cake. (that's three and a half total, if you're counting.) decorate with skittles, a detail you added yourself to give the cake more flair.

2:32 pm - light the candles. sing happy birthday. 

2:33 pm - the birthday girl makes a wish, and blows out the candles.

2:35 pm - cut the cake. jumping up and down while shrieking "ohmygosh it looks so great!" is entirely optional and might get you some wierd looks from other partygoers, but it's also completely appropriate behavior. honest.

2:37 pm - serve to the birthday girl with pride and ENJOY!

so the moral of this cake story is that it can be done, but you might want to have a backup plan. and plenty of icing. and a few hours to kill. and some firefighters on speed dial, just in case. 

so now that you know just how exciting a pinterest project can be, who's next?

Monday, September 26, 2011

apple picking.

the weather man said it was supposed to pour down rain all weekend.

i am so glad he was wrong.

Happy Birthday Claire Marie!
thanks for inviting us to share your birthday weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


you know what i could go for right now? some M&Ms.

I had this same feeling yesterday afternoon. Yesterday, i put a dollar into the vending machine and hit E5 an watched the M&Ms slowly inch their way forward as quickly as their twirly spiraled cage allowed them to because some kind soul had posted their $0.75 bail.

But apparently the vending machine was feeling vindictive, as though the M&Ms did not deserve to go free, and just as the M&Ms were about to escape, the machine grabbed them and held on.

I left a note on the vending machine that it was holding my M&Ms hostage, but no one returned them to me. and they're not holding on in there anymore.

somebody done stole my M&Ms.

Oh well, they probably were really doing me a favor. I guess i'll just eat my baby carrots instead.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

hey, i put some new shoes on.

so i mentioned that as part of my weekend shopping spree that i picked up a pair of shoes for myself. now, you have to promise not to laugh at me before i tell you anything else about them. promise? pinky swear? ok.
well, they're those toning kind of shoes - you know, the ones that will give you better legs and a nicer butt just by lacing them up. stop laughing right now or i'll break your pinkies! 'cause they're not like the ones with the giant rocker on the bottom or even the balance ball inspired ones. in fact, if the box hadn't told me they were the special toning shoes i might not have known it because they're actually pretty cute and normal-looking. 

i wore them for the first time to jazzercise last night. ok seriously, enough with the giggles its a really good and fun workout! i could feel a difference in my legs, but i wasnt entirely sure if that was a good or a bad thing. i guess the good news is that i could still walk when i woke up this morning, but it kind of felt sometimes that the shoes just didn't fit quite right and i was a little off-balance trying to make up for the extra bounce in the sole. but maybe that's just how the shoes are supposed to work. i guess i'll have to wear them a few more times to know for sure. i suspect that these shoes will either give me really nice legs, or make them fall off, and i'm wierdly excited to find out which it will be!

Monday, September 19, 2011

shopping spree.

this weekend, i did a little shopping. well actually, i did kind of a lot of shopping. i hit up yardsales, and craft stores, and hardware stores, and department stores. i got some things that i needed, some things that i wanted, and a bunch of pretty sweet deals. so let me share with you some of my spoils.

Saturday morning i got up pretty early to check out some of the end-of-the-season yardsales. most of what i saw was either a bunch of leftover junk or a lot of baby stuff, neither of which i had any need for. i was on my way home when i spotted one last sale. it was there that i found the best stuff of the day - an all-wooden futon, and a fun ikea mirror. she wanted $25 for both, but agreed to take my $23, since i'm such a convincing barterer. and/or that's all the cash i had on me. we think the futon will eventually live in the basement and give us extra room for guests, once we get a mattress for it. we have no idea yet where the mirror will end up.

after helping me unload the futon, Mark spent the rest of the day catching up on some work stuff, so i got to do some more solo shopping. i was supposed to be looking for curtains for the fireplace room. because our windows in there have been nekkid for far too long. but i didnt find any that i liked in any of the three stores i visited, so i did not buy any curtains. or curtain rods. but i picked up some swatches of fabric in case i decide to make curtains. and i did find some finials for the curtain rods at BBnB that i really like and that i could get 20% off of, so now all i need are the rods. (i'm not really sure why i didn't just go ahead and buy the rods at the same time. just not ready to fully commit yet?)

i also found this awesome little wheely-garlic-cutter that has been on my "i really wish i had one of those" list ever since my sister-with-the-babies told me about hers, but i wasn't willing to buy one for myself. until i found this one that was 1/2 off. score!

another little thing that brought me great joy was the bedskirt that i found on clearance for $4 at Target. i ironed it and put it on the bed in the guest bedroom, and now i can stop feeling self-conscious about the no-longer-exposed frame because it is all covered up and looking fine. doesn't it just make you want to come visit? what? you say you would also like a headboard and some bedside tables? be patient y'all... all in good time.

i made one last stop on Saturday at Home Depot to pick up a small lattice for our thornless raspberry plants. they were about to out-grow the pot we had them in, and needed something to support themselves so they would stop growing along the ground. Mark transplanted them into a bigger pot, the one my Mom got me for my bridal shower, and i think they're really going to like it there.

on Sunday morning, i made the unsettling discovery that i did not like any of my pants. so since i had 30% off at Kohl's to use (and because if you get the 30% you can't NOT go shopping) i spent the afternoon figuring out what size pants* i wear in grown-up sizes** and making the most out of my extra discount. i ended up with 2 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of capris, 2 shirts, and a pair of shoes for me; and 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of swim trunks, and 2 shirts for Mark. i shopped mostly from the clearance racks, except for my 2 pairs of pants, and i ended up saving around 4x what i spent. i think it was a good day.

did anyone else do any shopping this weekend? anyone know where i can find a futon mattress? who wants to help me pick out curtain fabric? anyone have a sewing machine i could maybe borrow? and when are you coming to visit and sleep in my guest bedroom?

*definitely NOT a size 4. what was i thinking? also, neither is Kirstie Alley. sorry hon.

** a rant-y aside to the Womens Pants Sizing Makers of America (WPSMOA: presumably pronounced whip-some-mo'): may i seriously suggest that you get your act together and start standardizing your wacked-out system for sizing women's pants? just because i might be classified as 'petite' does not mean that i am also extra skinny. i'm just a little shorter than average. but according to you and your crazypants, i'm about 6 inches too short for 'average' pants, and yet somehow still about an inch too tall for 'short' pants. and why can i fit into a size 6avg but need a size 8short?  YOU MAKE NO SENSE! thanks for making me feel fat and short all at the same time, all while not making any pants that actually fit me..
what's wrong with the way men size their pants? i know that i can pick up any pair of pants that say 32/32 and be guaranteed that they'll look great on the hubs. why can't we do that? because i would LOVELOVELOVE to find a pair of pants that fits me around my hips and butt and are also a comfortable length - you know, somewhere between needs-to-be-rolled-three-times and hey-where's-the-flood? to be able to pick up a pair of pants in my size and be guaranteed that they'll fit me without having to take three pairs of the same pants in different sizes into the dressing room only to find that NONE OF THEM FIT?
save us some time. save us from dressing room meltdowns. save us from wearing the same pants we've had since highschool because we dread having to shop for new ones. and FIX THE WAY YOU SIZE OUR PANTS.***

*** ok, i'm done now. i feel a little better.

Friday, September 16, 2011

happy independence day!

...in Mexico, that is.

to celebrate, i made chicken fajitas for dinner. i was kind of excited to try a recipe for fajita seasoning that a friend of mine had given me last winter, but it wasn't until i got home from work that i realized i did not have all the spices i needed. so, time to improvise!

i sauteed some onion and an orange bell pepper in a little bit of olive oil, until they started to get soft and a little brown around the edges.

then i cooked up some strips of chicken in a little more olive oil, until they were cooked through and a nice golden brown color on the outside.

then instead of the fajita seasoning i was planning on making, i added part of a package of taco seasoning - i just added some water and kind of sprinkled the seasoning on until the meat looked seasoned enough. then i added the onion and peppers back in to heat it all up again together and viola! fajitas.

it only took me about 20 minutes to make this whole dinner. and Mark said it was really good, so i'll just go ahead and call this quick, easy meal a definite win!

hope you all had a happy Mexican Independence Day, and have a great weekend!

Monday, September 12, 2011

almost there.

since i'm in a state of denial about all things football related this weekend (my likely fantasy win doesn't really make up for that embarrasment on sunday) let's just focus on some other happenings of the past few days. what? things exist outside of the NFL? the world revolves around something other than football season? why apparently, it sure does. and just in case you've forgotten, in our little world everything revolves around the neverending fireplace room project.

thanks to all the rain this week, Mark's softball game was cancelled on Tuesday night. he made the most of his evening by starting to fix the doorways into the room. he managed to remove the old too-small door casings without having to remove the existing trim on the other side of the door. this apparently saved us a lot of time and frustration. i was duely impressed. 

by the end of the evening, the lengths of all the pieces had been calculated and double-checked, all measurements had been measured at least twice, and everything was cut to length and fitted into the doorways before it was taken to the basement for the first coat of primer.

over the next few weeknights, the pieces all got two coats of primer and two coats of paint. i would be lying if i said i helped with that at all. not that i didn't offer, just that i was not needed at this stage of the game.

when the weekend finally came, we knew that before we did anything else with the doorways, something had to be done about the floor in the fireplace room. because not only was it getting kind of hard to work with all the stuff to step around and avoid stepping on, but all that junk was also covered in a nice thin black dusty film of spraypaint gunk. it was almost entirely imperceptible until it was transferred onto your feet or hands and then left black painty fingerprints and footprints all over everything that did not need to be covered with black painty fingerprints and footprints.

we meticulously wiped down absolutely everything in the room with a damp rag, and rolled up the plastic as we went. we put away tools that we were done with, but kept close the ones we might still need. then i vacuumed the floor, and swiffered the floor, and wiped the whole thing down with a wet rag on my hands and knees, and swiffered the floor again, and then swiffered it all with a wet cloth too. and for about a half an hour, the whole room was spotless.

oh, and i took advantage of the freshly clean environment to take another pic of the fireplace in all her trimmed-out spraypainted awesomeness without the clutter on the floor or tape on the ceiling to take away from how good she looks.

anywho, then it was back to the business of the doorways. Mark started with the kitchen doorway. he nailed the frame together lying down, then stood it up to fit them into the doorway. and thanks to his careful calculations and measurements, it fit perfectly!

then Mark used his studfinder so he would know where the studs were in the wall when it came time to put up the trim and make sure everything was all secured and in place. i didn't help with this part either, because i don't need a studfinder to find my stud. (ba-dum-bum-chissshhh) (i told mark when i took this picture that i was going to make a really funny studfinder joke that he wouldnt think was funny at all. he mostly ignored me.)

since Mark was doing most of the work at this point, and doing SUCH a good job of it, i took it upon myself to simultaneously enjoy my super clean floors and the first time we've seen the sun all week by sprawling out in the middle of the room and staring out the window at the gorgeous blue sky. a major contribution on my part, honestly. i am so helpful.

my cloud-gazing break had to end when Mark had moved onto the front room doorway and needed my floorspace. so i kept blue glove buddy company in the kitchen for a while.

fitting the second doorway into place had a few more bumps than the first did. turns out the opening was just a hair too narrow, so Mark had to cut back about a quarter inch of drywall on each side of the door. this made sure the doorframe would fit, and also made a mess on my freshly-clean floor.

since my help was only needed sparingly, i transitioned into a role not unlike a supervisor who watches the workers, offers encouragement or a helping hand when needed or requested, but who mostly sits around and does nothing. see how helpful i am?

i am happy to say that thanks to my diligent oversight and surveillance of the process, this was our only nail gun casualty of the day. no fingers or toes or animals were victimized, just the hub's patience. bonus points to anyone who does not mention this or point this out to him when they come to visit, as it is kind of a sore spot for him. extra bonus points to whoever finds out where in the world that nail went.

wow, this is getting long. i guess you should just be glad i'm not sharing all almost-80 pictures i took of the whole process. but to make a long-ish story short-er, the doorways are officially fixed! i am so thrilled. i had almost forgotten what the room looked like with real finished doorways and trim and baseboard.

oh, you'd like to see what it looks like too? no problem, i'm happy to share. we ended up having to borrow a smaller nail gun from Mark's dad to put up the quarterround at the bottom of the baseboard on sunday, but everything was in place and cleaned up in time for the Sunday night football game.

i'm never quite sure that the to-do list ever gets any shorter for this room, but the things on the list are of a much smaller scale than they used to be. we are definately in the home stretch here, and it feels good.

Still To Do:
- fill all the nail holes with wood filler and sand smooth.
- put a thin layer of touch up paint over the nail holes and fingerprints.
- clean a few paint splatters off the brick.
- clean, paint, and re-install the air return vent covers.
- put up all the light switch and outlet covers.
- re-hang the light fixture in the nook.
- figure out what to do about window treatments.