theweeklydiner

Archive for the ‘Hits & Misses’ Category

I am by no means a cake making professional.  However I LOVE making and eating cakes.  The majority of the time I use boxed cake mixes.  Usually this is because I have lots of treats to make for my son’s birthday and I am trying to save on time.  Every once in awhile, it is nice to slow down and take the time and make a cake from scratch.  Today we are going to look back over a few of the more FUN cakes and cupcakes I have made.

This first cake I made for bunko.  It was the second time I tried to do block cakes.  I like tender, moist cakes and those tend to crumb up when you ice them.  That’s what happened with these cakes, they sort of crumbled.  So while they do not have clean edges, it still turned out cute.

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These cupcakes I made were for the Christmas party at my son’s school.  They took a little extra time to creat but were pretty easy overall and looked amazing!

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The style of these next cupcakes were for showers.  I found this idea while browsing pinterest for ideas.  The first set were for a baby shower and the second for a bridal shower.  In case you were wondering, yes….it is a pain in the behind to tie all those little ribbons on the cupcakes.  Though after awhile you can find your rhythm.  And of course you must match your frosting to your ribbon string for a full effect.

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Sometimes simple is better, especially when it is for a class party.  Grocery stores sell some very cute kits to quickly decorate cupcakes if you are tight on time.  The ones below came with the picks, sprinkles and cupcake liners that I matched with store bought confetti cake and matching frosting.

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For some reason, teachers are always associated with apples.  So what better treat to make for teachers than these apple cupcakes.  These ones weren’t actually apple flavored but I am sure you could work that in.

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This next cake turned out so pretty.  I found the cake idea while sitting browsing a magazine at the doctor’s office.  Isn’t that where you find some of the best recipes??  I made it for a 4th of July BBQ.  To me watermelon and BBQ go hand in hand!

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The next cupcakes I made for an end of school year swim party.  Both the apple cupcakes above and these cupcakes were found in the book, What’s New Cupcake?  This book is full of fun ideas, some more difficult than others but worth the effort.  These were just too cute!

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This next cupcake was another pinterest find.  My husband loves to fish and this was an easy way to get my young son involved in decorating the cupcakes.  He put the pretzels on then I would draw the fishing line and then he placed the fish.  My husband loved them!

IMAG0716Next is the infamous Kit Kat Cake, perhaps one of my best pinterest finds.  I first made this cake for a birthday party for my friend’s daughter.  She was protective of the cake and was upset when her grandfather asked me to make one for another party.  I have made four total with cake #5 set to be made this Friday for a dessert auction.  I may just have to buy it myself.

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The first time I made the cake using vanilla cake and chocolate frosting.  The birthday girl wanted a rainbow cake.  I am a lover of chocolate and I found that using a chocolate frosting was just too much.  So I now make them using Duff’s Zebra cake mix and vanilla frosting unless otherwise requested.  As far as cake mixes go, his products are the best!

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We made one for the teachers of his preschool when we were leaving the school.

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And yet another for a friend’s BIG 3-0!! (my son: the master at photo-bombing)

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Ok- so maybe this isn’t technically a cake, but I did use a bundt pan so I am counting it.  I found this idea on Pinterest.  I don’t really look anywhere else these days for inspiration.  Why should I when I get Pinspiration?  Pretty basic cake: rice krispy treats with M&Ms mixed in at the last minute so they don’t melt.  Then you push the mixture into a greased bundt pan.  Once set, turn it out and drizzle in the chocolate of your choice.  This Christmas dessert went fast.

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The next is a very simple yet lovely looking cake for a school Valentine’s party.  I took cake mix and baked one square and one round cake.  You cut the round cake in half and put each half one side of the square to make a heart shape.  Then frost and decorate.  For this one I also dyed the cake pix hot pink using Duff’s Electric Color Gels.

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The next cake is the prettiest cake I ever made.  Of course I had the help of my husband who helped me cut the layers of the cake.  The rest was all me, and Martha of course.  This recipe was found through a google search.  I came across Martha Stewart’s recipe for Ultimate Coconut Cake.  I almost didn’t make this cake.  It is a very intimidating recipe and there are a lot of steps.  It was worth it.  This cake was a thing of beauty.

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For a friend’s birthday, I took the same cake but used chocolate frosting instead.  It was tasty too, no real coconut this time.

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My friend threw her daughter a roller skating party last year, like real skates not blades.  I had recently ordered the Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator.  So this was my first time piping.  For fun accents I used the Duff’s Stuff  Cake Tattoos.  The skates were a bit more difficult.  Most things I came across used the Wilton Skate Cake Mold.  Then after some random searching, I came across a project to teach a child to learn how to tie shoelaces.  So I followed the project to make the shoe part of the skates.  I used chocolate donuts for the wheels and marshmallows as stoppers.  Then I found those awesome glow in the dark shoelaces.  This cake was a hit!

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The next cake was made by request.  It was just a “please make me a cake for my birthday.”  So I had the freedom to create anything. Since this was for a 10th birthday, I wanted something fun but not childish.  After searching Pinterest, again, I blended two ideas together.  I decided on a purple hombre cake surrounded in sprinkles.  The birthday girl loved it!

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This year for Christmas, I found this cake on guess where????  That’s right, Pinterest!  I actually made it incorrectly and had to run to get more cake mix.  I had accidentally used black food coloring instead of green.  Oops!  Take the time and read the labels.  Lessoned learned.  I loved this cake!!

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This last item isn’t really a cake but it is made with cake batter and was too good not to share…  Cake Batter Blondies!!  Try them out today!

Cake Batter Blondies.  Good plain--- AMAZING frosted!

I could eat the entire pan

As you can see, I like to have fun with baking.  If you’ve been wanting to try a new recipe, I say go for it!  Baking brings people together, so heat up your oven and invite some friends over.

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Every now and again I am going to post an article on Pinterest hits and misses.  These will all be my opinion only.  So any mistakes I made are mine and mine alone.

Those of us who are fans of Pinterest know what it is like.  You see a pin, be it recipe or craft, read the directions and think no problem! That looks so EASY!!!  Only to have it fail, miserably.  Sometimes you succeed beyond your wildest imaginations!!!  And sometimes you may go, “eh…it worked out but not worth the trouble.”

I am a Pinterest addict.  And no, I do not want to seek help for my addiction.  I wear it proudly.  The only problem I find is that there is not nearly enough time (or calories) in the day to make and eat all the food I pin, or all the crafts, or to buy all the outfits.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg.  I thought every once in awhile we could gather here and discuss some pins I have tried.  I am happy to say I have had way more successes than failures.  Most of my failures have been recipes and that could also be attributed to personal taste.  I won’t highlight those.  But other times…like today’s failure, is actually quite easy to laugh at.

I saw this post about skinnytaste’s chocolate covered bananas.  They looked SO good and it was a hot day and these were a skinny version!!!  Win all around.  And they tasted amazing.  They just didn’t look so pretty.

IMG_1292I am not so good at dipping bananas apparently.  Like I said, they didn’t turn out correctly but they still tasted delicious.  Especially on a hot day.

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So now on to my first HIT aka success.  I chose this one because it was one of the first pinterest crafts I ever attempted.  This particular craft used to show up on pinterest ALL THE TIME.  Now as Pinterest gets many more users, I see it less and less.  The pin itself states that if you do this to your iPhone/iPod headphones, they will not get tangled.

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AND HERE IS MY VERSION:

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I get compliments on these all the time.  You might notice some tape at the bottom.  Since I used metallic thread, it didn’t stay in a knot as normal string would have.  I did buy regular string to make my son a pair of these headphones but I have yet to start the project.  For starters, he doesn’t use these kind of headphones.  And secondly, they took FOREVER!!!  Ok, maybe not forever.  It just seemed that way.  It could have been because of the metallic string.  I think it would go quicker if I was using various colors.  I did buy normal string in camouflage colors.  I still plan to do it one day.  And in case you were wondering…no, they do not get tangled on their own.

The success I found in this project gave me the confidence to attempt many others since.  Go get out there….look through your pins….and get crafting!

Oh how I love crusty bread.  I have been making this bread non-stop since my birthday.  Confession, I am a pinner.  Pinterest addict is more like it.  I have been on pinterest since close to the beginning.  I was turned to it by two high school friends and haven’t looked back.  One of my favorite posts I have ever come across was the crusty bread recipe.  

my very first loaf

my very first loaf

the first loaf served with herbed butter

the first loaf served with herbed butter

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So when I read the recipe and looked at the pictures, the bread just looked perfect.  And they said it was easy.  And they made it in a dutch oven which I had always wanted.  So I pinned it to save for later when I got a dutch oven.  I probably had it pinned for at least a year before I got my dutch oven.

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My first jalapeno cheddar loaf

My first jalapeno cheddar loaf

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Fast forward to fall 2011.  I got a beautiful new Le Creuset pot.  I was so excited to make bread!!  Sure there were tons of soups and things I could make in it but I knew from the moment I opened my present that it was destined to make bread.  Glorious, crunchy, perfect bread.

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this one came out heart shaped

this one came out heart shaped

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After I made the first loaf I knew I was in love.  And the possibilities are endless.  I trolled through the comment section on the blog to see the different varieties and flavors of bread that people were creating.

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This was a swiss cheese and onion loaf and if you toasted it, the flavors would be superb on French Onion Soup

This was a swiss cheese and onion loaf and if you toasted it, the flavors would be superb on French Onion Soup

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So for you, dear reader, I will give you the list of flavors I have compiled from the comment sections of the blog.  And it doesn’t stop there.  A few tips first, don’t use too much water.  It calls for one and a half cups, I tend to use just slightly less.  The dough is supposed to look pretty dry.  If you use too much water, then the loaf will come out flat like ciabatta.  I always whisk the flour, salt and yeast together before I add anything.  If you are doing mix-ins, add them before the water.  I always use parchment when I make a cheese loaf.  So get up, go to the store and go by some flour and yeast and salt and whatever else you want for flavor.  This is the second easiest bread you could possibly make!!!  Oh–one more thing, if it lasts past day one, then it tends to get a little soft.  Just throw it back in the oven (I use a toaster oven) and it is almost like new.  So tasty!!!

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Artichoke, garlic and mozzarella loaf

Artichoke, garlic and mozzarella loaf

Regular loaf with a roasted garlic rosemary butter

Regular loaf with a roasted garlic rosemary butter

newest jalapeno cheddar loaf in stages

newest jalapeno cheddar loaf in stages

VARIATIONS OF CRUSTY BREAD: (cheeses: 1-1.5 cups // mix-ins: ½ cup)

  • Jalapeno cheddar (awesome!!!)
  • Jalapeno pepperjack
  • Rosemary, lemon zest, gruyere
  • Bacon cheddar
  • Bacon & Jack
  • Black pepper parmesan
  • Garlic Colby jack
  • Rosemary, feta & sun-dried tomato
  • Tomato, basil, parmesan
  • Cantimpalo (Spanish chorizo) & onion
  • Caramelized onion & blue cheese
  • Caramelized onion & swiss—(amazing-super moist, would be good toasted and put  on onion soup)
  • Minced garlic & parmesan
  • Cheddar & black olive
  • Green Onion and Jack Cheese (I LOVED this bread.  I used tons of jack so it was really moist and had a subtle onion flavor.)
  • Olive & mozzerella
  • Artichoke and garlic (made this adding mozzarella and it was fabulous!!)
  • Garlic, asiago, & rosemary
  • Lemon, feta & rosemary
  • Apple spice & apple chips (LOVE LOVE LOVE this bread.  I also subbed some homemade apple butter for water.  The apple chips I used were the Brothers-All-Natural dehydrated Apple Crisps.  Amazing bread, especially with cinnamon butter spread on top.)
  • Pistachio & cranberry (Decent bread, not my favorite, but still really tasty.)
  • Orange, cranberry & almond (I didn’t use almonds but the orange and cranberry mix was awesome.  Tasty bread!)
  • Blueberry lemon (Decent flavored bread.  I used a little too much water so it was dense once cooked but really good.  I also made a lemon glaze to drizzle on top.)
  • Pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree (sub 1/2c for water) (Super Yummy!!!  Very similar to the apple spiced bread.  LOVED!)
  • Cinnamon (cinnamon chips, sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top)—(use very little cinnamon chips)
  • Chocolate and cranberry
  • Cinnamon Raisin

Oh where to start???  This party was many months in the planning.  There were two ways I could have gone with it.  One, a mainly Mickey Mouse party, there are lots of supplies for this kind of party.  The other way I could have gone would be a truly Disneyland themed party which would include a lot of do-it-yourself projects.  Thank goodness for Pinterest where I could compile all my ideas.
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On my first search I turned up two blogs for Disney themes parties.  One was Disneyland and the other was Walt Disney World.  Then I continued to do searches for Mickey themed parties to gain inspiration.  From these I formed a plan.  I throw two parties, one for my son’s school friends and one for family and family friends.  My vision with these parties was to bring the magic of Disneyland into our home. 
Etsy was a huge part in the party.  From the invitations to the ears to the vintage pieces, I was able to find it on that website.
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Sitting around the house were vases filled with various themed antenna balls purchased throughout the years at Disneyland.  I also spent some time on etsy and found vintage plate, salt and pepper shakers, serving forks and even a tru-vue view finder from the 50’s.  These items sat among the treat tables and on display in my makeshift art gallery.
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DECORATIONS:
The basics of my decorations were simple colors based on Mickey Mouse; red table clothes, black plates, yellow napkins and plastic ware, and white cups. 
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I then decided each area of the house would represent the different lands of Disneyland.  To designate each land, I mod-podged 18×24 inch canvas panels of each land using pictures I have taken throughout my trips to Disneyland.
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 Adventureland/New Orleans Square was located by our snake and tarantula cages.  I also pinned up some toucans in honor of the Tiki Room. 
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Frontierland was in our family room, with a special Frontierland outfitters sign locating  where the kids picked up some party goods at the start of the party. Fantasyland was in the dining room where we hung Chinese lanterns over the table honoring the tea cup ride. Tomorrowland was in the kitchen since most of the plants in tomorrowland are edible.
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  Toon Town/Critter Country led out to the backyard that also doubled as the Penny Arcade. 
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There was also an area dedicated to the Disney Gallery featuring photo albums of previous trips plus our collection of Disneyland books. 
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Then I came up with the idea of creating a photo collage of my son’s trips to Disneyland in the shape of Mickey Mouse.  My husband is very handy.  I found an article through a Google search from Duke University that explained the mathematical equation of the ratio of Mickey’s ears to his the size of his head.  He then cut out of cardboard and assembled a large Mickey head onto which I again mod-podged a collage of pictures.
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Leading up the walkway to our house were quotes form Disney movies that I found here.  Even though this isn’t in Disneyland, it is the essence of Disney.  There was pending rain for our party, so my sister and I wrapped the quotes in Packing tape and taped them to paint stir sticks that we got from Orchard Supply Hardware.  Then the morning of the party, my son and I put them in our lawn. 
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The windows of our house were adorned with Poster Art from the parks found online.  The stair railing in our house were also adorned with poster art that I took personally with my camera from our most recent trip to Disneyland. 
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I think my most favorite piece of decoration besides the photo-collaged Mickey head is the Castle with fireworks.  Inspired by this blog, and other pinterest recommendations, I took my photo on a flash drive down to staples.  I asked for an engineer print the size of three feet by four feet.  I had my husband bring home a piece of cardboard that matched in size.  We attached the print by using spray adhesive.  I know the photo is hung using a hefty piece of fishing line but that’s all I know.  My sister made the fireworks based on the pictures in the blog and then my husband hung those as well.  And I found something interesting that I have yet to find referenced in Disneyland books, though it could definitely be out there.  Right in the middle of the scroll work on the castle, is a very definitive D.  Until I had this huge picture in front of me, it has always escaped my attention.
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FOOD:
Two parties mean twice the food.  Not only twice the food, but there are two different people to be catering to, kids versus adults.  I tossed around many ideas for food.  Two ideas that didn’t make it were Mickey shaped hamburgers and Mickey shaped sandwiches.   For both parties, I made signs designating what the food being served was called.
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I decided for the kid party to do more Mickey shaped food than Disneyland food.  There was the Mickey chicken tenders you can get at Costco, mini corn dogs, small packs of carrot sticks, the Brothers-All-Natural dehydrated Apple slices that are sold in the park, Mickey shaped pretzels with cheese sauce to dip them in, Mickeyroni and cheese bought in Disneyland and churros.  The churros were a cheater recipe and amazingly good.  Baked puff pastry, dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  They are AMAZING!!!!  I also made pizza squares with Mickey heads; pepperoni for the head and olives for the ears.
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For the adult party, I got most of the recipes from here.  I did buy a Disney cookbook but actually liked the recipes that Disneyland has given out publicly over the years.  It took awhile to set up this menu and even then there was a lot of different foods.  We had Cesar salad from Blue Bayou; Cole slaw, corn bread and ribs from the round up bbq; safari skewers and spicy beef skewers from Bengal bbq, sour cream and chive whipped potatoes form the Napa Rose; count down chicken fussilli pasta form Red Rocket’s Pizza Port; fresh cut vegetables and dip, soft pretzels, more churros, and even Dole Whips.  To drink we have Jungle Juleps from the long gone Tahitian Terrace as well as the Mint Juleps from the Mint Julep bar.  The food was AMAZING.  I had a bit of help in the kitchen to bring it all together and it was magical.
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SWEET TREATS:
On the cavities I gave people.  In true Disney fashion, I had an abundance of sweet treats available to party guests.  I did my best in making Snickerdoodles, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Tigger Tails, Chocolate dipped pretzel rods, and Mickey Mouse rice krispy treats both regular and chocolate dipped.  For the kids I made cupcakes with Oreos for Mickey ears.  
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For the cake I decoration I made a Mickey Mouse ear hat.  I took a photo copy of my ear hat, cut out the logo, and taped it to the front of the cake.  Behind the hat, I made a replica of the Original Disneyland Marquee.  I printed a photo from the Internet, mounted it on card stock then glued it to Popsicle sticks.
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ACTIVITIES: For the last two years, I haven’t had traditional birthday games.  I create activity areas for the kids have with.  After they got outfitted they had a variety of things from which to choose.  We had face painting, cookie decorating, a fun foto area, and the Penny Arcade area.  In the arcade area outside, there was a bounce house, a basketball arcade game, a pachinko machine and a frontier shooting game.  During the party the birthday boy held a magic show filled with tricks purchased at the Disneyland Magic Shoppe.  And then we also had a piñata that I made from this website.
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GOODY BAG:
The goodie bags were awesome thanks to the wonderful cast members of the Disneyland resort.   I was able to fulfill my vision by getting small bags to use as the actual goodie bags.  Online, I found color sheets from the various rides and made coloring books.  I also found a template of a Mickey Mouse paper airplane from the spoonful website.   I was able to purchase the arm bandz in Mickey Mouse shapes from Party City.  I also included maps of Disneyland and info pamphlet about Disneyland. I purchased Disney Pez from Amazon and then Disney chocolates while in Disneyland.   I also threw in a few glow sticks.  Basically I was trying to fill it with things you may buy or find in Disneyland.
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The second part to the goodie bags were actually picked out when the guests arrived at the party.  I had a table set up called Frontierland Outfitters.  Here, guests could pick out ears, find their name tags, pick up a lanyard and some Mardi Gras beads, and pins you can only get in Disneyland.  Again, MANY MANY THANKS to the cast members of Disneyland for this generous donation to the party.  It really made it extra special.
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MISC:
For the entrance to our house, I used pictures of the things you would see when entering Disneyland: the Main Street Train Station, Walt Disney’s dedication speech, and the sign you read as you go through the entrance tunnel.
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For the bathrooms I used pictures I took of my favorite bathroom signs, which coincidentally are NOT found in the Disneyland park itself but in Disney’s California Adventure park.
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I also took pictures of various signs throughout the parks to use as decorations, exit signs, no smoking signs and then cast member signs to keep people away from certain parts of the house.  I keep my cats locked in my bedroom during parties and I was stoked to get the barnyard animals are sleeping picture go on my bedroom door.
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I’d say the birthday boy had a fabulous time!!!

So today my run wasn’t all that great.  It had nothing to do with the rain since I run on a treadmill in the garage but because my son jumped on me and I fell on my knee.  OUCH!  So this afternoon I did what my husband always accuses me of…..sit on the couch.  Although I was accomplished in that I made my menu for the week, my grocery list and a spreadsheet to figure out who get’s what school picture and in what size.  (My son had to go and take 8 awesome shots in one sitting, making my job all that much harder.)  I designed a team logo for the color run (Team Yensid–bonus points for you if you know that name without looking it up), did some computer updates, made a better running play list for Bay to Breakers and I suppose writing this entry is another thing marked off my list without leaving the couch.  🙂

In between all that I browsed Pinterest.  Oh how I LOVE LOVE LOVE pinterest.  A place to find all the things I never knew I needed.  Why I found a cake slicer today…a mere $54 plus $12 in shipping from Amazon (and no Prime shipping) for all the layer cakes I make.  (note: extreme sarcasm) HOWEVER, my mind works in such a way that if I were to get this fancy piece of equipment then I would WANT to make more layer cakes.  They are delicious after all.

Martha Stewart’s Ultimate Coconut Cake
(seriously the best cake i have put in my mouth)

In the cake above, my husband so kindly cut the layers and it was a very bad day for the diet.  This cake was worth every ounce of effort that was put into it.  IF you are adventurous and like to bake — go for it!  If you are looking for a mild, plain cake- just make the cake portion of the recipe and forget the rest.  And don’t worry about the coconut extract, the taste is so subtle you won’t notice.  My husband wants the cake part with chocolate frosting.  He HATED the vanilla bean frosting recipe that came with this recipe, but as a sweets and frosting fan, it was to DIE for.  I would have eaten it all day.

That’s all for today.  I need to get my son under control.  He has decided he will be playing with his toys today. And by playing I mean grabbing a bucket of toys, bringing it to a different room, and going through them one by one and then piling them everywhere.  Oh the joys of a five year old.
Until next time…….

This is me
(holding one of our pet scorpions, who is now deceased)
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“If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.” — Ratatouille

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Ultimate Running Goal

The Goofy ChallengeJanuary 13th, 2018
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