Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Make a Tie Dyed Cake

I've been having a lot of fun with cake lately :D I've recently learned a really easy (though sometimes time consuming) technique that makes the inside of your cakes really fun. You can use this to make zebra striped cake, camo, or tie dyed.

For tie dyed cakes:

First, mix up your favorite white cake batter. The colors turn out a little better if it's a true white cake, but I tried it with a white cake recipe that uses egg yolks and it still turns out awesome.

Divide your batter evenly into six bowls (or however many colors you'd like - for camo, divide into two bowls, either vanilla and chocolate or dye the batter the two colors you'd like to use). Dye each batter the desired color.

Then add to the pan. For rectangle/square pans:

You really just get to be creative :) Take about 1/4 cup of batter and start plopping it around. Once all your batter is added, gently jiggle the pan to even it out.

For round:

Take about 1/4, start with one color and pour directly in the middle of the pan. Add the second color directly on top of that, alternating until all batter is added. Gently jiggle to even out.

Bake according to your recipe's directions, and you end up with something like this :D

(btw the colors are much brighter than this picture shows. Really pretty!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Baby Turns 9

9 years ago today was one of the most terrifying days of my life. I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter, and was told that she would have to be delivered in order to save both our lives.

Since then, she has far exceeded every expectation I've ever had. She's such a strong, intelligent, independent, beautiful little girl. My heart bursts every time I look at her :)

Happy birthday to our little peanut princess!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

DIY Fruit Wash

I don't always have the time to prep my fruit, but I really try to as often as possible. I love for my family to be able to just open the fridge drawer and have a big pile of fruit ready to eat. Especially now that we are all trying to be a bit healthier (and now that it's summer and all the yummy fruit is in season we are buying even more!)

But I don't love all the potential nasties that can be covering the fruit. There are all kinds of fruit washes you can buy if you want something a little tougher than plain water. But really, you can do it yourself with a little of that magical vinegar and a sinkful of water.

Most sites I've been to suggest a 3 to 1 ration of water to vinegar and that always works great for me. I was nervous at first that the fruit would pick up the vinegar and it would ruin the taste, but so far that hasn't been the case.

I run a sink of water, add the vinegar, and then dump in the fruit. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and then rinse under cold water, rubbing the fruit as you do.

The first time I did this I was shocked that I could actually FEEL whatever it is that is on the fruit washing away beneath the water. Especially on apples. I think it's the waxy substance they add to them to make them shiny. Whatever it is, it's NOT something I want my family to be eating.

(Strawberries soaking)

(What the water looks like after the strawberries soaked for 10 mins)

I usually lay the cleaned fruit out on paper towels to air dry for a minute while I get another batch going and then stack it up in the fruit drawer in the fridge.

My fruit lasts soooo much longer this way. So I don't worry about stocking up because I know it will last (though fruit goes pretty quickly in this house no matter what lol). Berries especially were a problem, going soft and mushy within a day or two. But after prepping with like this, they last...well, I'm not sure exactly how long they'll last as my kids don't let them sit long, but I've yet to have to toss any when before I'd have to throw away at least a few.

If your family stocks up on fruit like we do, this can be a little time consuming, but sooo worth it in the end. And if you buy smaller amounts, this really only takes 15 minutes or so. Definitely worth it!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DIY Ant Repellents

I'm fairly sure that my house is being supported by nothing but ant hills. I've actually seen two of them near my front steps *shudder* This is concerning in and of itself, but it's also a pain because the little buggers get inside the house no matter what I do or how clean the house is (and ha! Let's face it, a house with kids is rarely sparkling clean).

But with the kiddos and pets running around, I really don't like spraying poison. So I googled around and found a few natural solutions.

1. Citrus
Ants supposedly don't like citrus, lemon in particular. So, if you mix one cup of lemon juice with four cups of warm water and then wipe the mixture on counters, cupboards or wherever they are a problem. This is supposed to keep them away as they don't like the lemon scent

2. Cinnamon
Again, ants supposedly don't like the scent so if you dust cinnamon along problem areas it should get rid of them. This one I have tried (in very small areas). I do think it helps and it does smell much nicer than poison, however I don't like having trails of brown dust all over the place. I've also mixed it with water to make a paste and shoved it in cracks where I've noticed ants coming out and that wasn't quite as bad.

3. Baby powder
Supposed to work like the cinnamon. Just sprinkle it around problem areas.

4. Vinegar
Ah, another use for the magic that is vinegar. Mix this stuff 1:1 with water and spray on ant trails. I've also seen some people suggest adding a tablespoon of peppermint oil to the mixture.

5. Borax
There is a slightly more elaborate solution that apparently works really well. I found it at The Happy Housewife. You'll need 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups Borax, 1 1/2 cups warm water, and some cotton balls or cloth. Head to her blog for full instructions but she had a lot of success with this method so it's worth checking out.

Monday, June 2, 2014

How Do You Find the Time?

I have lost track of how many people have asked me how I find the time to write. The answer is easy….I just do. It’s a struggle. It’s not easy. There are some things I have to sacrifice. But it is doable. And since my kids are now both in school, it's gotten a bit easier. I can treat it more like a "real" job (more on that below).

These are a few things I do to find the time to write, but many of them can apply to anything you need to make time for in your life.

1. Carry a notebook and pen, a recorder, laptop, etc.
One thing I noticed about myself is that even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. Story ideas, conversations between characters, ideas for scenes…these are always running through my head. I tend to get epiphanies when I’m in the shower or doing the dishes. I may not have time in the middle of a load of dishes to rush to my computer and write a scene the moment it occurs to me, but if take a second to jot down a few notes, then I have something to work on when I can sit down at my computer. This both saves me the frustration of trying to remember something I really wanted to include in my book (because my memory is SHOT nowadays) and saves me precious minutes of think time when I am in front of my screen.

2. Get chores and errands done in a timely manner.
This is an ongoing struggle lol But I do try ;-) If I can get my household chores and errands completed early in the day, then whatever spare moments present themselves can be used to write. I can concentrate on my story instead of feeling guilty that I should be doing dishes or laundry instead.

3. Treat it like a job.
This is easier said than done. Working from home has its perks, for sure. But it also has its drawbacks. There are a lot of distractions. The kitchen is RIGHT THERE. The t.v. is RIGHT THERE. There is no boss making sure I don't play online all day long. Other people assume because I'm home all day, I can take off whenever I want or that I'm not actually doing stuff. But I am. My job takes a lot of time. And if I don't treat it like the actual job it is, it doesn't get done (unless I stay up all night, and the older I get, the harder it is to keep those vampire hours) :-) So, I have to keep on top of things, stay organized, make goals, meet my deadlines, and get my projects done whether I feel like working or not. It's not always fun, but it's always worth it in the end.

4. Prioritize your activities
We all have spare moments in the day. What we do with those moments is what is important. If you truly want to find the time to write (or do anything else), you have to be willing to sacrifice. I have a lot of television shows that I love. I love to read. I play the piano and cross-stitch. I have children that want to play with their mommy (although I would like to note that time with my children is NOT something I sacrifice in order to write).

This is where the whole "treat it like a job" comes in. I try to keep my work hours contained to when my kids are in school. That means when my kids come home, I can play with them and just be "mommy." Sometimes looming deadlines cuts into this and I have to readjust, but I try to maintain a somewhat regular work schedule.

But sometimes it requires a bit of sacrifice. Sometimes I need to DVR those shows so I can work after the kids are in bed, or I don't get to that new book I wanted to read for a few weeks. It's just a matter of deciding what's more important. And I'd rather sacrifice watching the new episode of Game of Thrones (though thank goodness for DVR!!!) and get some kid time in than sacrifice time with my family to write.

Now, let’s face it, Real Life is going to get in the way sometimes. It’s going to throw carefully crafted schedules right out the window, probably on a daily basis. But it shouldn’t matter. If you want to write (or do whatever it is that you are trying to find time for), you will do it. Find the time. Eat dinner a little faster and use the three minutes you saved scarfing your meal to write a few lines. Carry a recorder around and dictate your book while you vacuum. Scribble on Kleenexes while you wait at the doctor’s with your sick child (just be careful not to use said Kleenex for said sick child’s nose).

The time is there…you just have to find it and use it.

Author Kenneth Atchity said: Every human being has exactly the same amount of time, and yet consider the output of Robert Louis Stevenson, John Peabody Harrington, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury,William Goldman, Neil Simon, Joyce Caorl Oates, Agatha Christie and John Gardner. How did they accomplish what they have? They weren’t deflected from their priorities by activities of lesser importance. The work continues, even though everything else may have to give. They know that their greatest resource is themselves. Wasting time is wasting themselves. When people ask them, “Where do you find the time?” they wonder, “Where do you lose it?”

Friday, May 30, 2014

Soccer Themed Name Letters

Finally finished Little Man's name letters. He had a bit of a hard time deciding what he wanted. At first, he said soccer. But then he wanted Hunger Games themed letters. Wasn't sure what I was going to do for that, but said okay. Then, we found some cool Minecraft stickers so he changed his mind again. THEN he thought Minecraft Hunger Games would be cool...with the Os in his name soccer themed. Luckily, he went back to soccer themed for all his letters. Made life a little easier ;-)

Or so I thought LOL Things are never as easy for me as I assume they will be.

As usual, I found a picture online that I could print out and use as a stencil. I took his letters (which were dark green and brown with dinosaur stickers) and painted them white. And then put my stencil over the letter and started tracing. With a ballpoint pen.

Don't ever do this.

Because if you mess up, you are stuck. This is after five...that's right FIVE...coats of white paint. It was a black ball point, so the black went away but those blue lines...yeah, there was nothing I could do to cover those puppies.

My solution...I decided to paint the Os black. It ended up being a happy accident because the Os ended up looking great breaking up the soccer ball pattern of the other letters.

I went back and forth over adding the soccer ball pattern on the black Os in white, which I think would have looked really cool. But we found some fun 3D stickers and in the end, I think it ended up looking really good :-)

Then, back over to the white letters. This time I traced the pattern in pencil. Worked MUCH better. Black paint for the little inside bits and a fine-tipped Sharpie for the lines and I had some soccer ball-looking letters :D

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chug the Jug

Chug the Jug is my family's new motto :-) We all need to be drinking more water, but this is especially true for my kids, who are active in sports and who will be spending their impending summer vacation playing their little hearts out under the hot sun.

The importance of keeping them hydrated is something that cannot be stressed enough. A little boy on my son's soccer team became overheated during last night's game. It's scary how quickly this can happen. And it's terrifying how serious this can be. The hotter it is, the harder they play, the more important it is to make sure their little bodies are getting all the fluids they need.

While drinking water is extremely important, it's not the only thing they can do to keep hydrated. It's the best way, yes. My family has decided we are all going to start carrying around gallon jugs of water that we can continually sip through out the day. That way we'll always have water on hand and we won't have to worry about refilling a smaller bottle.

But there are other ways to help with hydration as well. Add a few flavor drops to make it a little more palatable for the kiddies. Drinking sports drinks and fruit smoothies is also good. Even eating foods high in water content like fruits and vegetables can help. 

So while you are out playing this summer, make sure to keep everyone good and hydrated!