Friday, March 30, 2012

New Picnic Table

 A few days ago a big box was delivered to our door.  It was Cupcake's new Step2 Naturally Playful Picnic Table with Umbrella!!  Her grandparents sent it to her for her Easter/birthday present.  It matches her Step2 Naturally Playful Sand and Water Table.  My girl loves chairs.  She wants to sit in every chair she sees, so this is perfect for her!  It sat in the hallway for a few days because our beautiful summer like weather disappeared.  Well, and I was supposed to be working on other unfinished projects around the house.  But on a beautiful afternoon we took it out back and got to work.  

I'm going to be honest here and admit that I didn't put it all the way together.  You have to put 4 screws in to the leg pieces in order to put the top and benches on.  I put those in, but it isn't predrilled and the electric screwdriver was dead, so it was hard work (especially because I had been out in the garage hand sawing trim pieces during Cupcake's lunch - more on that later).  I snapped the table top and benches in and I was supposed to screw those down, too, but I didn't have the energy.  So I let her test it out as is.  I know, I know!  Bad mom!!!

She was supervised the whole time by Oscar and I, so no worries!  Now that the screwdriver is charged I'll head out there and secure the pieces (once it stops raining).

I think the table is a hit!  It was a great spot for an afternoon snack.  I bet she can't wait to have her friends over for a lunch date!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Reflector

I got myself a fun new toy!  A reflector!!  When it first arrived hubby was all like "what do you need that for?"  Silly, hubby.  He doesn't know much about photography.  So anywho, on to the reflector.  I shoot pretty much exclusively with natural light.  I do have one photo bulb downstairs in a cabinet that I used to use with a homemade light box that got destroyed, but it pretty much just lives down there with the spiders.  I like to set up next to a window and use available light when shooting, whether it is posing Cupcake in the window seat, shooting cookies before and after I've taken a bite out of them for taste testing, or when showing off my latest craft project like the Chick-sicles.    
 I stopped into the local camera shop the other day just to look around.  I love to support the local business, but the cheapest reflector they had was $50 and seeing as how I am not a pro and I do not make money with my photography I didn't really feel like I could fork over that much money on something I wasn't sure how much I would use.  So I found this reflector on  For less than $11 I figured it was worth a shot.  It had pretty good reviews and it seemed to have all the functions of the expensive reflector at the camera shop (although I think it's a tad smaller).  Nope I lied.  I just checked their website.  It's also a 22" reflector.  

So basically it's a light diffusing disc with a slipcover.  The slip cover is reversible and each side is a different color. Black/gold and silver/white.  You simply unzip it, flip it around and zip it back up to change.  Simple!  I realize that I will probably use the white size 95% of the time, but again I only paid $11 for this thing!  So here is my example of how the reflector makes a difference.

This is the first picture I took for my Chick-sicles post.  As you can tell the light was coming from a window on the right hand size.  So the left sides of both chicks is quite shaded and the shadow of the front chick is pretty obvious on the back one.  I thought the picture was OK, but then I remember I had a new reflector and I could do better!!!
So I went in the other room, grabbed my new reflector (this is the first time it's been used!!!), switched the slipcover over to white, held it in my left hand while my right hand did the camera work and bam!  Check out the light on the left side!!!   No more harsh shadows on the sides and the shadow from the blue chick onto the green chick is much less noticeable, right?  Neither of these photos have been edited.  The only difference is the use of the reflector.  Big difference!!!  Oh, I am so excited about this!!  I tried to tell hubby just how exciting it was, but again, he just doesn't get this photography stuff.  I hope you find it interesting, though!  

I forsee a lot more reflector use in my future!!

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Nap Time Craft Time: Chick-sicles

 I'm going to attempt to be more regular with my posting.  One of the regulars I'd like to stick with is Nap Time Craft Time.  I'll share what I worked on during Cupcake's nap time!  So here is my first Nap Time Craft Time post!

My friend Stephanie over at Creations A La Mode showed me the cute Chick-sicle pattern she had found and I knew I had to make some, too!!  She found the pattern over at Just Another Hang Up.  I was super bummed when I realized I didn't have any flannel to make this cute little guys.  That gave me an excuse to go to the fabric store!!  I kind of needed to go anyway to get cookie cutter's for Cupcake's birthday party (coming up in less than 2 months!!!  Eek!!)

You could totally make these cute guys with just some scrap fabric, but fat quarters were on sale, so I had to buy a few for my project.  :)  I can't resist!  I also picked up some orange flannel to use for the beak and coordinating flannel for the backs (turquoise on the green guy, purple for the blue guy).  I hadn't looked at the pattern for probably a week before I made my way to the store, so I couldn't remember how many different fabrics I needed or that I needed ric rac.  I actually bought 3 coordinating fabrics for each, but I can just use those in different combinations.  And I didn't buy any ric rac, so I had to use the leftover blue ric rac from Cupcake's Halloween costume.  Luckily it coordinated (better with the blue guy than the green guy, but anywho......).  And I happened to have some white nylon cord on hand.

So here was the super fun part of this project.  Decorative stitches!!!  I have a Brother cs600i machine that I purchased in the fall after running my cheapy, starter Singer into the ground.  I've not gotten too adventurous with this machine yet, so this was a fun project to start!  I tried out the blanket stitch and a loopy stitch.  Of course I had to practice on scraps first and then I lined it up wrong the first time I tried it on my project!  No biggie that's what seam rippers are for! And I did make one more mistake along the way (and I strangely do this so often it's embarrassing!).  When I stitched the nylon cord on I put it up instead of down, so when I turned my project right side out it was facing the wrong way.  Again, that's what seam rippers are for!!  I was such a quick and fun project!  I thought about making a third one, but I figured Cupcake would wake soon and I was fresh out of safety eyes (I had these on hand so I used them instead of buttons).

Are these cute?!?!  Cupcake has never had a boo boo buddy before so I'm excited for her to have a Chick-sicle the next time she gets hurt (which I'm sure is going to be any second now.........girl is as graceful as her momma!).

So there you have it!  My Nap Time Craft Time project for the week!  I hope you like it!!

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ninja Toddler

Today was a big day!  It's big girl bed day!  Ninja toddler has figured out how to escape the crib.  On Tuesday I heard her jibber jabbering on the monitor so I went up to her room to discover she had gotten out and emptied two drawers of clothes all over the floor.  Uh oh!  I didn't want to make any rash decisions as several other mommies had said after the first escape their little one never attempted to get out again.  Cupcake went to bed just fine that night and naptime and nighttime weren't a problem on Wednesday or Thursday either. (I surrounded the bed with pillows on the outside just in case she decided to try again)  I thought maybe, just maybe she'd be OK!  Well, Friday she escaped again and didn't get a nap.  (Well, unless you count the one in the car on the way to our afternoon playdate.)  Friday night within a half an hour of putting her to bed she was standing at the door yelling.  This morning she was at the door waiting for me to come and get her.

The decision was made.  Big girl bed it is!  Luckily her crib converts to a toddler bed, so it was just a matter of removing a few screws, dowels, and putting the new piece on. She seemed excited to go to bed.  She asked for night night.  I got her bubba (pacifier) down from the shelf, gave her blankie, turned on her seahorse and tucked her in.  I listened in on the monitor for a bit and it was quiet.  So I jumped in the shower.  When I got out I heard "thunk, thunk, thunk."  I knew exactly what she was doing.  Girl loves to rock the glider until it hits the wall.  I poked my head in and sure enough there she was.  And there were clothes and toys scattered all over the floor. 

 Back in the bed!  Attempt #2.  Same routine.  Bubba, blankie, seahorse, tucked in.  It was quiet for a bit and then "bang, bang, bang, clunk, clunk, clunk"  She was playing with her pound and roll tower and boy is that loud on the monitor.  I gave her a few more minutes, but she was still up.  I went back in and found her playing with the clothes. The pound and roll tower was in her bed.

I put her in yet again.  This time I sat with her for a few minutes, told her that it was time for night night and gave her some extra kisses.  I decided to close her blinds (I normally don't bother with it at nap time and it hasn't been an issue.)  I told her one last time night night and walked out.  I listened for 20 minutes and didn't hear a peep on the monitor.  I had to go back in and sneak a peek.  And I found a precious sleeping toddler. 

Phew!  I was nervous!  I was afraid we'd have a lot of napless days ahead of us, but maybe it won't be so bad!  She's always been a pretty good sleeper (takes after her daddy!) so I was really nervous to mess it up.  I think I'll call it a success!  Now let's just hope night time goes well............

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Campfire Cookies: A Review

I will not claim to be a food critic, but I love to eat (who doesn't?) and I've had my fair share of sweets so I kinda think I know what I'm talking about.  And maybe I'm just practicing for a future career in food criticing (and now I'm making up words, too!). 
I needed to make something for a potluck at my bowling league.  I love to make dessert.  Unfortunately I didn't plan ahead so I had to come up with something that I had all the ingredients for so I could make it during Cupcake's nap.  I settled on these Campfire Cookies from Fahrenheit 350. The only substitution I made was that I only had dark chocolate chips instead of a Hershey bar.
The recipe was easy to follow and the dough came together quickly, which I like.  I spread out my grahams and set to scoop out my dough, but the recipe didn't tell me how much to scoop.  I went with my usual Pampered Chef Medium Scoop.  (that is the secret to perfectly shaped cookies)  It seemed like the right amount.  The recipe says to put them in the preheated oven for no more than 11 minutes or the graham cracker will burn.  Well, my oven runs hot so I always knock a minute off.  The first batch went in for 10.  They came out looking cooked and the graham cracker was definitely a bit darker.  Some of the cookies oozed over and marshmallow got stuck on the baking sheet.  IMPORTANT LESSON: If that happens you need to wash the marshmallow off!!!  When I put the next batch in on that cookie sheet the graham crackers stuck to the sheet and I could not get the cookies off without destroying them!!  The recipe said it would yield about 4 dozen cookies, but I didn't even get 3 dozen out of the batch, so maybe the medium scoop wasn't the right size?
I let the cookies cool and dug in.  At first I wasn't happy.  The graham cracker was crunchy and the cookies were still a bit gooey on the inside.  I confess I'm a fanatic for soft cookies, so the crunchy part was killing me!  I don't have any reviews from the ladies at bowling because the cookies didn't actually make it there.  You see, when fighting with the last few cookies that were stuck to the baking sheet I bumped the cooling rack and two dozen cookies flew across the room.  After throwing a huge hissy fit (and putting the dog in his crate so he could not attack them) I scooped up the cookies, but they could not be saved.  Many broke, several hit face first and stuck to the floor, and I just couldn't serve floor cookies to people!  The good news is I had almost a dozen left for taste testing.  So, day 2 I taste again and I'm much happier!!!  The graham cracker has softened up and the dough seemed less gooey.  All in all not a bad cookie.  My only complaint now is that the graham cracker is a bit overwhelming.  I can barely taste any marshmallow.  (I ate at least 3 cookies to make sure it wasn't just an off sample).  I may make them again, but I wonder if I couldn't find a better one out there.......  If you have a great s'more cookie recipe please share!!!  I'd love to try it out!!
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sweets, No Beets

Have you ever had Sweets & Beets Chips?  I LOVE sweets & beets and lately I've been wanting some.  I keep forgetting to pick them up at the grocery though.  Yeah, I'm horrible with the list.  Strangely I remembered to get sweet potatoes, though!  So I set off to make my own!

It was a rough start. You have to thin slice the potatoes.  Do you know how hard that is to do?  Well, when you don't have any fancy tools except a knife and a cutting board it is quite difficult.  By the second potato I had gotten much better at it, but they still weren't a uniform thickness.

Here's a step I can't screw up, though!  Mmmmm.....butter, salt, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Mix it up and drizzle over the potatoes.

Toss the potatoes to coat.

Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and toss them in the oven. 

Bake and enjoy!

 So as you can see some of the edges are a little darker than others.  This is why uniform thickness is important.  Nonetheless, they tasted fabulous!  And they made the house smell delicious!  Cupcake ate the first batch the instant they had cooled.  They weren't quite as crispy as fried chips, but they are an acceptable substitute.  And they are a good excuse to buy a mandoline! 

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Chips
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets.
  2. Combine butter, salt, sugar and cinnamon.  Toss with sliced potatoes to coat.  Arrange on baking sheet in a single layer.
  3. Bake in preheated oven until edges curl upwards, about 20 to 25 minutes depending on thickness. 
  Recipe adapted from

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Thursday, March 8, 2012


When Cupcake's great grandparents passed away there was a lot of stuff to sort through.  Her great Noni passed away a few years ago and her great grandpa passed away when she was just 3 weeks old, so she never got to meet either of them.  There are a few reminders of them that we will be able to share with her as she gets older.  One of those things is the costume jewelry that Noni had.  She had all these great pearl necklaces in several different lengths.  I thought one day she would love to play dress up with them.  I was right.  She has loved playing with these necklaces for months.  She calls them pretties.  She puts them on with any outfit!  Sweatpants included.  :)  Yesterday I caught her looking like this!  What a girly girl!  She wanted to wear the necklaces to story time at the library.  Of course I didn't let her have them in the carseat, but as soon as we got out of the car she asked for them again.  She was the fanciest girl at the library.  They did get in the way of her coloring project, though, so they were eventually tossed aside.  She sure knows how to make momma smile.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Cookies

I went to a Thirty-One team meeting last night.  On the way out I grabbed a cookie for my ride home.  It was just a cookie from a grocery store bakery.  Nothing too exciting.  There were 4 types to choose from: chocolate, sugar, white chocolate macadamia nut, and apple cinnamon.  I thought apple cinnamon sounded fun and different so that's what I went with. Oh, it was the right choice!  It was a FANTASTIC cookie.  I came home raving about this cookie.  Hubby thought I was nuts!  I had a dream about that cookie!

My goal for today was to find out how to make those cookies.  To the interwebs!  I found several recipes, but most did not look promising.  Several were just cookies with applesauce in them, so I can't imagine they have that fantastic apple taste I was looking for.  So here's what I tried.

Apple pie filling.  You don't need the whole can.  Do what you want with the rest.  Eat it straight out of the can. Make a second batch of cookies.  Whatever.  I don't judge.  Spin around in the food processor to chop those babies up.

Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar.  Sing some Rolling Stones even though Fall Out Boy is playing in the background.  *Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good.*  Add egg and vanilla.

Add the apples. Curse that your Beater Blade broke and you have to scrape the bowl.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add it!

Scoop the batter onto your greased or lined baking sheet.  I prefer a Silpat.  Sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top.  Be generous.  I had quite a bit leftover. And the 3rd and half dozen got a good bit more than the first two dozen.  They had a yummier crunch on top.

Realize that using your medium scoop makes too big of a cookie after the first batch is in the oven and switch to the small scoop.

Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.  Take a picture.

Take a bite.  Take another picture.

So these cookies definitely turned out good.  I could eat a dozen in one sitting.  However, they were not nearly as delicious as the grocery store bakery cookie I had last night.  Hubby approved of them, too.  He didn't taste "the cookie" so he can't compare.  I think I might have a new mission in life.  I WILL make the most delicious apple cinnamon cookie EVER.

Apple Cinnamon Cookies
1 can (21 oz.) apple pie filling
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup apples from pie filling. Save remaining pie filling for another use. Finely chop apples in a blender or food processor.In a large bowl, cream butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until smooth. Add chopped apples to creamed mixture; stir until well blended.
In a medium bowl, sift together next 3 ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. 
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; stir until well blended. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Makes About 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from

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Saturday, March 3, 2012


Cupcake has lots of puzzles.  And she loves them.  We love these Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles.  She has a few with animals, a mix & match, and an alphabet set. The alphabet puzzle is a bit tricky for her.  There's just too many pieces.  It doesn't stop her from trying, though!
She likes to take one letter out and try to put it in another spot.  And when it doesn't fit she sets it aside.  Eventually we have an empty puzzle, but underneath those letters are pictures!  She tries to identify the pictures underneath.  She does really well with them!
As I type she is sitting at the same table (not in the same pajamas) working on the puzzle with daddy.  Such a smart girl.  :)

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