Campfire Cake

Way back in December, in the midst of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-school break madness, our eldest hooligan had his 10th birthday. The party was scheduled for the day The Lone Ranger (with Johnny Depp) came out on DVD, because that’s what he wanted to do at his party…eat pizza, watch the movie, have cake. He’s not a very social boy, so that was all the celebration he felt comfortable having. And he deemed any decorations or themed party games too babyish.

You know I couldn’t let a party happen without something themed, though, so I came up with a cool cake that looked like a campfire. (I saw the idea on Pinterest and ran with it from there, so it’s not totally an original thought.)

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I’m sure you won’t believe me, but this was probably the simplest cake I’ve ever decorated. I started with a boxed mix (from Duff, at Target) for a rainbow cake . And, yes, it had artificial colors, but the remaining ingredients were okay. The boy loves rainbow colors, so I relented.

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For the shards of “fire,” I followed this simple recipe for hard candy.  I added peppermint extract for the flavoring and liquid, not gel, food color.  I didn’t stir it much once I added the coloring, so that it would look swirled.  After I poured it into a parchment-lined sheet pan, I let it cool completely, then used the highly technical meat mallet and knife point method to break it into shards.

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I wound up with way more fire than I needed, but it was tasty to snack on for a couple of weeks after the party.Cake-Candy-ChaosServedDaliy

The only other part I had to figure out was the toasted marshmallow border. Fortunately, one of my neighbors (have I ever mentioned that my neighbors are possibly the best ever?) had a mini-torch for crème brulee and I borrowed that. Man, it worked so well…I think I may need one of my own.Cake-Torch-ChaosServedDaily

Look!

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Assembling it was simple…I mixed up a batch of chocolate buttercream frosting and frosted the cake, then place the shards in it. They had to go quite a way down, to keep them from tipping, then I frosted over the holes they made. I broke Pirouline cookies to resemble logs and placed the toasted marshmallows around the edge. Ta-da!Cake-Cut-ChaosServedDaily

The birthday boy (and all of his friends) thought the shards of fire were the coolest, and I was pretty darned impressed with my abilities.

Now I’m trying to talk Princess Thundercloud into a similar one using blue shards of “ice” for her Frozen-themed party this weekend. Wish me luck…she checked a book on cake decorating out of the library two months ago and has chosen a cake that looks like a jewelry box with a necklace and nail polish bottle on the top. Really? Shards are so much more fun!

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Gussied-Up Mason Jar Gifts

“Gussied-up” is one of those phrases that pops into my mind sometimes and immediately brings back a flood of memories of my grandma.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty much a carbon copy of her, according to my mom and other relatives, so I’m certain she’d approve of the title of this post.  Y’all know how much I love using Mason jars, so whenever I can, I like to use them for gift packaging instead of decorated bags or wrapped boxes. I especially adore using the blue and, now, green glass jars from Ball…woohoo!

For this Birthday Treat Jar, I wrapped washi tape around the lid, tied on another ribbon and attached a mini-pinwheel, and wrote “Happy Birthday” on a tag I punched out of chalkboard vinyl.  Less than five minutes, and it’s a cute little gift, ready to present to your friend.

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The green glass jars are quart size, which makes them perfect for casual flower arrangements. I made this tag a few weeks ago at a stamping workshop, and thought it was a perfect addition to this jar of flowering branches from my yard.  I love that the word “Perfection” is molded into the glass jar.

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And, last but not least, this faux-apothecary jar I made for a friend’s birthday a couple of years ago.  I used a glass candlestick from the dollar store and a regular quart Mason jar, added a ribbon and a large chalkboard vinyl label, and filled it with birthday Oreos. Oh, and of course I attached the jar to the candlestick with E6000. ‘Cause it’s my favorite adhesive ever!

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So, three easy ideas for “gussying up” your Mason jars…don’t you just want to give something to someone now?  (My front porch is always available for drop-offs!)

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Spring Break Escape

Last week, during Spring Break, we organized closets, moved the two littles in together and gave the eldest his own room, and managed to take a few days to escape to the Washington coast.

We love the Navy Resort in the village of Pacific Beach…the cottages are actually quarters from when it was an actual base, so you have a whole house to spread out in and enjoy.  I even wrote half of my research paper for Comp 2 while everyone else went to a movie.  Woohoo!

We always take a ton of photos (which, really, all look the same except the kids get bigger each visit), and this time I was determined to scrapbook them as soon as possible. Luckily for me, Designer Digitals has a great template on special for 99 cents this weekend, until Monday night…I kid you not, this page took five minutes to create!  If you’re a digital scrapper, or want to give it a try, stop by Designer Digitals before this special is over (but if you don’t make it by then, be sure to check out their weekly sales on Thursday and the 99 cent feature every weekend).

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All I had to do was insert my photos into the template spots and add the background paper. The template background would have been fine to leave, but I wanted a little color and it was neutral. Oh, and I changed the color of “good” and added a scribble effect to it. But, again, you could leave it as is and still have a great page done in a few minutes. See..here it is with just the photos added and no other changes, and it looks very clean and beachy:

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You can print scrapbook pages at Costco for $1.49 for 8×8 or (I think) $3 for 12×12.  I believe other places print them as well, such as Walgreens or Walmart, but since I’m at Costco pretty much every other day (It seems), I just upload mine and pick them up when I’m there.

If you haven’t tried digiscrapping, it’s a great way to save your memories.  You can download free 30-day trials of the software I use, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or Stampin’ Up!’s My Digital Studio, which I think is super easy to use from the start. There are also tons of free digital files you can download on various sites, from background papers to fonts to embellishments. It’s a little addicting, I tell you! Have fun!

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Easy “Egg”-cellent Teacher Gift Tag Printable

I can’t believe Easter almost here…it seems as though Lent just started (other than totally missing the eating out that we gave up for six weeks!).  Anyway, it occurred to me this morning that I need a little gift for our teachers, so I made a cute printable tag.  Then it took mere minutes to pop a few chocolate eggs (and a little Easter grass) into a kraft fry box, wrap some fabric Duck tape around it, and attach the tag (with adhesive and a cute clothespin).

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You can’t see the fun fabric tape from the front, but here’s a back/side view…I’ve been itching to use this tape, and now I feel the need to incorporate it into every project I can!

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And guess what, y’all? I posted the printable tags on Box, so you can just download, print them, and make your own cute teacher gifts. These chocolate eggs came in a giant bag from Costco (and have no “bad” ingredients) and the fry boxes were from Pick Your Plum.  The eggs would be equally as cute in a cellophane bag, of course…but then I wouldn’t have been able to use my fabric tape!

Just click on the image below to go to the download page.

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The printable has 6 tags per page, 2 with a blue background shown above and 3 with a yellow/orange watercolor background. I couldn’t decide which I liked better.

Happy Easter, if I don’t post again before then!  It’s a super busy week, what with Holy Week activities AND Princess Thundercloud’s 6th birthday on Friday.  At least I had the sense to postpone her party (her first slumber party) until next weekend, thinking that people would have way too much to do this weekend. She still expects class treats and a family celebration on the actual day, though, so I’ve been busy making a gymnastics set for her American Girl doll…I’ll post about that sometime soon! Oh, and I had a 15 page paper to write to finish up my Comp 2 class this week. Have I whined enough to be forgiven for the lack of posts? Please???

Banana Fluffernutter Sandwiches (with Homemade Fluff!)

To kick off Spring Break last week (and because I’ve been wanting to make homemade fluff for ages), I made Homemade Marshmallow Fluff and whipped up some Banana Flufflernutter Sandwiches for lunch. My kids thought I was the bomb-diggity, as the kids say nowadays.

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Making marshmallow fluff is so simple, y’all.  From just a few ingredients from your pantry, you get about six cups of the ooey, gooey, delicious spread to use on sandwiches, as fruit or graham cracker dip, or to drop into hot chocolate.  It’ll keep a couple of weeks out of the frig in an airtight container, or refrigerate it and it might last longer. Ours didn’t have a chance to go bad. Fluff-Title-ChaosServedDail

I followed this recipe from King Arthur Flour, using honey instead of corn syrup.

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup or honey
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) In a medium-sized saucepan combine the water, sugar and honey. Stir gently to combine. Insert a candy thermometer set for 240°F and heat over medium-high flame. Do not stir the sugar water as it cooks or it will form crystals.

2) When the sugar syrup begins to form large bubbles, and the thermometer reads about 225°F to 230°F, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat the whites to soft peaks. This should take about 3 to 4 minutes.

3) By the time the whites are whipped, the sugar syrup should be at 240°F. Remove from the heat and with the mixer running, carefully pour the syrup in a thin, steady stream into the whites.

4) The whites will deflate slightly at first, but as the sugar syrup becomes incorporated, they will thicken, turn white and begin to fluff up.

5) Continue to whip the fluffy spread for 7 to 8 minutes, or until very thick and glossy. Add in the vanilla and whip for another minute. Those droplets on the sides of the bowl are hardened syrup that didn’t get mixed in quickly enough.  And the brown is the vanilla I just added.Fluff-Mix-ChaosServedDaily

6) Pour the spread into an airtight container. Store for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. The spread can be rewhipped by hand if it becomes “flat”.

King Arthur says it yields 3 cups, but mine made over 6 cups…and I followed the directions exactly.  Then I made us sandwiches for lunch.  There’s half a banana on each sandwich and about 2 tablespoons peanut butter. Then a heaping dollop of marshmallow fluff!Fluff-Open-Sand-ChaosServed

The kids thought this was better than store-bought. It’s definitely less sweet and much less sticky. I still made them eat lunch outside, though, since it was sunny and warm, after all!

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Glorious Cross Paintings…Again!

I believe this is the third year I’ve posted these photos, but it’s my favorite Easter kid craft… Glorious Cross Paintings. And it’s not even my own idea…I found it on Pinterest.  If you’d like to see the original idea, it’s at Housing a Forest.
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Here’s our version.
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First, cut a piece of scrap paper in half, so it’s 5-1/2” x 8”, then cut a cross out of it, as tall as the paper is.  Color around the edges with oil pastels (put it on another piece of scrap paper).  By the way, on a totally unrelated note, Spot Shot will quickly remove oil pastels from formica.  My rainbow-loving kid did his coloring in rainbow order, but the rest of us did not.  I have to admit, his did look a little cooler.

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Everyone did well at this.  The pastel needs to be right on the edge in a fairly thick layer.

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After the edges are completely colored, lay the cross on a piece of white cardstock.  Use your finger to go all the way around, pulling the color off the cross and onto your paper.  Hold the cross firmly in place with your other hand.  The little ones needed some help with this step, but it’s a pretty forgiving craft.

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After the cross was done, we cut an arched piece of paper, colored it with shades of green along the edge, and pulled it onto the white paper to make a hill. Remember not to pull it where the cross is, so it looks like it’s behind the cross.

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As a last step, we painted the sky and hill using watercolor paint. The kind the kids use at school, 8 colors in a little tray, not real watercolors an artist would use. The oil pastels resist the paint, so you don’t have to be super careful here.

We also made these on half-size pieces of cardstock, using a cross cut from a 4-1/4”x 5-1/2” piece of cardstock, and created Easter cards from them.  The kids loved this craft so much, we made them again this year. And that’s the sign of a winning craft…their enthusiasm to recreate it!

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He Is Risen Centerpiece

My sister-in-law sent me a photo a couple of years ago of a clever “empty tomb” centerpiece, and I made one for our home last year, and again this year. I love that it’s such a perfect visual for the kids to understand what the tomb looked like and how the stone was rolled away. Here’s my “how-to” from last year’s post:Tomb-Centerpiece

To make it, I used a table-top fountain I already had, since the purple pottery bowl looks amazing for an Easter table. The one my sister-in-law saw was made in a large pottery plant saucer.  I actually tried to buy one of those, but the garden centers here are still buried in snow and there’s no pottery to be found. Happily, I spied the fountain and realized it would work.

Anyway, I took the fountain parts out, leaving the bowl almost full of small river rock gravel.  I half-buried a clear plastic punch cup in the gravel and arranged large rocks from the fountain around it.  I covered the whole thing with green Spanish moss (from the floral crafts department at Walmart) to represent a hill.Tomb-Cup

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To make the crosses, one of the kids chose twigs from the yard (fortunately there were a few sticking out of the snowbanks) and I bound them together with some fancy yarn. Then we could stick them through the moss and into the gravel so they were pretty secure.

Once I figured out I could use the rocks and bowl from the fountain, this project took us about half an hour to complete.  Until I saw those rocks in the fountain, I was stymied as to how I could find appropriate rocks under the foot and a half of snow we still have in the flowerbeds.

It’s been a tremendous source of conversation as the kids see it each evening, which makes it simple to emphasize the true meaning and discussion of the events of Easter.

Speaking of Easter, here’s a little Princess Thundercloud story to brighten your day.  At Mass this weekend, during the Sign of Peace, I turned to exchange Peace with my husband first, as I always do.  Apparently she forgot that we shake the kids’ hand after that, as I heard her exclaim, “Mama, I’m tryin’ to give you your piece of the Lord!”  After she offered pieces of the Lord to all those around us, they all wished me extra peace. Heaven knows I need it!

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Magic Jellybeans

So this will be our third year planting Magic Jellybeans.  What, now?  You don’t know about Magic Jellybeans?  It’s one of those ideas I read online somewhere and filed away in the back of my mind (obviously before I had Pinterest, or I would have just pinned it).

It’s a simple idea…the night before Easter, plant some jellybeans and the next morning, giant lollipops (we use those Peeps-on-a-stick kebabs) have sprouted.  I cannot tell you how much the hooligans love this!  We even did it while staying at a hotel in Denver the first year…I saw a dude out walking his dog at oh-dark-thirty eyeing the Peeps kebobs very suspiciously, but thankfully, he steered his pet elsewhere to take care of business.

Here’s the scrapbook page I made from last year’s experience.  I made a little pillow box with a label smeared with “chocolate” (ink), put the jellybeans in it, and stuck it in our mailbox for the kids to find.  And, yes, I secretly saved the box so we can have the same delivery this year.

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Carrot Cake Cupcakes and Gift Boxes

Another favorite from the past…delicious Carrot Cake Cupcakes and adorable boxes to hold them. We made these as teacher gifts for Easter last year, using some gift boxes from World Market and adding an insert to hold the cupcakes securely. It really didn’t take as long as you might think!
I decided to make from-scratch Carrot Cake Cupcakes so I used a recipe from my King Arthur cookbook, similar to this King Arthur Carrot Cake Cupcake Recipe.  Mine had only 2-1/2 cups shredded carrots, 8 oz crushed pineapple(drained), and 1 cup shredded coconut, but otherwise was the same. It was doggone delicious, though, so let your conscience be your guide as to whether to substitute in the ingredients I used.

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I found some really cute boxes at World Market that were 3”x 3”.  A package of six was $4.99.Cupcake-Box

When I bought them, I had in mind using snack mix or cookies to fill them, so when I decided on cupcakes, I realized I needed to make a cupcake holder to insert into the boxes.  It’s really quite simple.

I cut cardstock to 4-3/4” x 4-3/4” and scored it an inch in from every edge. I snipped one corner line in each corner, and cut out one side piece so I could slide my punch in far enough. CUpcake-Insert-Cut

I punched out a 2-1/2” scallop circle, then put adhesive on all the corner pieces and assembled a little stand.  I adhered the side piece I had cut out back onto the two corner pieces, too, for stability.Cupcake-Insert-ready

Then it slid right into the box, ready to have a cupcake in it!Cupcake-Insert

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Now there’s a life skill I bet you never planned to learn today…cupcake stabilization. And don’t judge me for those giant marshmallow carrots…Thundercloud insisted we needed to add them.

Happy Easter, y’all!

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Thumbprint Cards for Easter

It’s Spring Break week here in the Land O’Chaos, so I’m going to be posting some of my favorite Easter entries from the past (with a new post or two thrown in, of course!). We made these cute thumbprint cards last year and I still love the bright colors of the paper and the fact that the thumbprint part was pure hooligans, not me.Bunny-Card

To make these, you’ll need some simple supplies:

  • Ink pad(s)…we used Daffodil Delight and Sahara Sand
  • Fine-tip markers for adding details
  • White cardstock
  • Printed scrapbook paper…I love the colors in Stampin’ Up’s International Bazaar DSP
  • Border punches…optional, but they add a bit of pizzazz!

For both cards, I cut white cardstock into 4-1/4” x 2” strips.  For the thumb-bunny cards, the kids pressed a print from their thumb for the face, then the sides of their pinkies for the ears.  I then bit my tongue and sat on my hands and allowed the eldest to add pink to the ears and nose, blue eyes, and black whiskers and mouth. Oh, and a bowtie to finish them. I drew the tie.

I cut a large egg shape from cardstock, leaving one side as a folded edge. We used that as a template to cut the card bases from 8-1/2” x 5-1/2” pieces, folded in half. We also traced the template onto the DSP and cut those, using them to completely cover the front of the card base. After punching along either side of the thumbprint piece, we punched two other borders from Rich Razzleberry and layered all that onto the DSP.

Inside I wrote “Thumb-bunnies love you!  Have a blessed Easter!”

Duck-CardWe followed all the same steps for the ducks, which were easier prints for the kids to make. Inside those cards I wrote. “Hope your Easter is happy, happy, happy!”

The kids thought these were fun to make, although they would have preferred getting as many of my stamps dirty in as many different color inks as possible, but this was something everyone could help with and still have a card that people won’t mind displaying in their homes. Hopefully.

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