Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bakerella's Cake Pops

So a few months ago, I stumble across a baking website, I think I followed a link from my Manic Mommies podcast. Anyway, she has these little desserts full of awesome cuteness that she calls cake pops! When I read the recipe, it sounded super simple. So simple, in fact, that I thought to myself, "how on earth did this lady make a whole website off of this? That's not hard or complicated, and doesn't take any skill!" Well, I suppose I am now about to eat my words, because these are a little harder to do than they look. :)

Well, the decorating part is. The recipe is still pretty simple. I will summarize it here, but you can go to her website to see how she makes cake balls and then how she turns them into cake pops.

1. Bake a cake and let it cool completely.
2. Get a can of frosting.
3. Crumble up the cake.
4. Mix in the frosting.
5. Roll mixture into millions of tiny balls. (I got about 6 dozen+)
6. Insert sticks.
7. Dip in Wilton's candy melts or almond bark or dipping chocolate.
8. Decorate however you'd like.

Simple, right? Well, here is how mine turned out.

I started with a Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix and Cream Cheese frosting.

Then, I crumbled up the cake.
Then mixed in the frosting.
I left some cake in the pan so we could all have a taste. This may become important later.....
Here is the mixture all balled up and ready to go into the fridge overnight. Her website says several hours, but it was getting late and I figured overnight couldn't hurt. Plus, I'd have more time the next day to do the dipping.

The next day......

Here is where it gets tricky. I think my first attempt at making the balls was not good. I made them too big. I also had trouble getting the sticks to STICK. They kept coming out of the mixture. My only guess as to why was in the amount of cake I used. I'm wondering if leaving that 2 inch wide piece of cake in the pan made the balls have too much frosting and not enough cake.

So I ended up cutting all the balls in half. I kept the sticks in one half, but then just dipped the remainder as cake balls, instead of turning them in to cake pops. I still had trouble with the sticks not sticking though.

Here is the dipping chocolate I used. On the left is Wilton's chocolate candy melts, in the middle is vanilla flavored almond bark, and on the right is chocolate flavored almond bark.

Wilton candy melt coated:
Vanilla almond bark coated:
Chocolate and almond bark coated:
(I had to get creative somehow!)

And lastly, the excess I removed from the sticks to form regular cake balls:
Here is Beta holding up her favorite: the Wilton chocolate coated ones.
How did they taste? Good! Incredibly rich, though. So I could only handle a few before my sweet tooth craving was more than satisfied. Today, the majority of them are residing at Jim's office's breakroom. Or at least they were this morning. :) I kept a few here for us. We all like them! Including J4 who had 2 last night and wanted more, but I put my mom foot down and decided he didn't need that much. :)

As for the decorating, go look at her site. Her Pop Stars page has TONS of cute pops! I guess these are professionals submitting these photos? I mean, mine looked fine for homemade, but the ones on her site (and that she does herself) are out of this world! How do they get the balls so round? How do they get the coating so smooth? How on earth do they decorate like that? Where do they find the time??? (these women must not have children.... or they are professionals and do this at work, I guess.)

Well, there you have it. My foray into the world of cake pops! I think I may stick with making cakes the regular way. It's easier and way less time consuming. But these were fun to try on a boring, hot, summer afternoon. Try some yourself!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Growing Up

J4 is growing up! As you know, he started walking 2 months ago. Well, now, we finally turned him forward facing in his car seat!
With the girls, the "rule" was that they had to be rear facing until they were one year old AND twenty pounds. So both of my girls rode rear facing until they were about 13-14 months old. Well, J4 was 21 pounds on his birthday. So why didn't we turn him around?

Because just a few days before, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with new guidelines. They now suggest waiting until your child is 2 years old before letting them ride forward facing. 2??? Really??? Apparently, kids in Sweden ride rear facing until they are 4 years old and have much less fatal injuries than we do here. Not that I have any idea what Sweden has to do with the US, but that was what I read.

So I spoke with his doctor at his 1 year old check-up. The doctor said there was discussion and debate among pediatricians. He said rear facing WAS safer, however, you then had to worry about their legs being smashed into the seat in a crash. So the doctor recommended leaving him rear facing until his feet touched the seat. So that's what we did.

The next big change was in his eating arrangement. Since he was about 4 months old, he's been sitting in this high chair:
Remember this one? :)

As you can see, his head was starting to go above the backrest several months ago. His head REALLY goes above the backrest now. So we moved him to our famous "Kinderzeat"!

We got this chair for Alpha when she was 2, or thereabouts. (I feel old that I can't remember how long we've had stuff any more! It's really been a long time!)

It is by Stokke and was called the Kinderzeat. It cost $200 circa 2002. She sat in that until Beta was old enough for it. Then Beta sat in it. It has lately been residing in Alpha's room as her desk chair. Both platforms are adjustable and it can hold up to like 200 pounds. So we'll probably have it for a long time.

Interestingly enough, they still make the chair. However, it was redesigned and is now called the Tripp Trapp. The name in Sweden apparently means "step up" or something. Funny that here it doesn't come close to meaning anything! The new Tripp Trapp has a baby seat and even a tray! (and colors, too! no fair!) You can even get one at The Baby Habit, one of the stores hosted by Acumen Brands, Inc, where Jim works. ;) (hint hint!) But this one is in good shape and seems to work just fine. So we're keeping it. I got the rubber, suction-cupped placemat at Toys R Us. It works ok. J4 has learned how to lift it up, but most of the time he doesn't.

The only problem we've had is Harper. Now that there's no silly HIGH chair in the way, her nose/mouth and J4's food-filled hands are only inches away. I go back and forth between "ew! dog germs!" and "oh well, it's good for his immune system." We've started putting her in the crate while he eats to cut down on some of that. Makes Harper mad, but she'll just have to get used to it. It's not like she's neglected. TRUST ME.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vacation Day 1

***I posted these in reverse order so they'd show up in the correct, chronological order. So keep reading after this post to see about Days 2 and 3!***

With lots of perseverance, and some luck, we managed to get an actual vacation this year! Our last one was in 2009. In 2010, we had a baby so we managed one night in Tulsa. So we were long overdue for some sort of family fun!

We ended up going back to Branson and staying at the Grand Country Inn. I like to go new places when I travel, so going BACK to Branson (that's where we went in 2o09) wasn't my idea of fun. However, it turned out to be perfect! The girls were excited to be going back and there were lots of different things to do than what we did 2 years ago.


The Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum!
Their sign out front said "tonight only all tickets 1/2 price!" I don't know if we truly were that lucky or if it always says that, but I don't care. Half price is half price! (and thankfully, J4 is still FREE at MOST places)

And I think I've started a tradition....the silly picture:
Back in 2009, we played mini golf in Branson. They had a rock that looked like a skull that you could walk through. So I had everyone act like they were screaming. That's why the girls are acting like the building is falling on their heads in this picture!

And you gotta admit, just the building is pretty cool looking.
This is the World's Largest Ball of Twine.
(and Alpha made that face all on her own....with no prompting from me!)

I forget what we were supposed to believe or not about this but I think it's a neat picture:
They had a tunnel to try and walk through. The "bridge" through it didn't move, but the walls did. So you had to tell yourself that you weren't turning or falling.
It didn't work! We all came out nearly falling down!

Typos follow me everywhere!!!! Believe it........OR NOT!

Vacation Day 2

Day 2 began with some AMAZING PETS! Our package included one of their shows and we chose the Amazing Pets show. There were trained dogs, cats, birds, a pony, and a pig. Yes, CATS. They trained cats! Jim said that was what impressed him the most. They didn't allow flash photography or video so I don't have any pictures from it. You'll just have to trust me when I say it was really cute!

After the show, we ate lunch. Then J4 needed a nap and I needed to ice my knee. So we went back to the room while Jim and the girls went swimming.

That night, we headed over to the Fun Spot to see the world's largest banjo!

They also had the "World's Largest Fiddle" in the Grand Country Music Hall!
The Fun Spot was a Chuck E Cheese kind of place, minus the mouse. Here is J4 watching Alpha as she does Dance Dance Revolution.

After supper, we did what to me was the high"light" of the trip.

Blacklight Mini Golf!

How cool is this?

I had to take this picture with the flash on so the girls' faces would show up. But imagine that it's all lit up neon and florescent, too!

Vacation Day 3

We began our day with breakfast at the Grand Country Inn Buffet! Oh my goodness! It was rows and rows of all the breakfast items you could want. Except pancakes. I was bummed. Until I saw all the bacon..... We even had to wake the kids up at 8:30 so we could get there before lunch!

We spent our last day of vacation at Branson Landing. Or tried to. It was REALLY HOT! So the only place we made it to was Bass Pro Shops. We've heard about how awesome this store is so we were eager to see it.

It's pretty neat. I was impressed. For about 15 minutes. Then I was ready to go, as were the girls. LOL! We're not really an outdoorsy kind of family, you might say. But I did get some good pictures:

Ok, so the fish WERE cool. We left soon afterwards, though, because it was hot and my knee was not allowing me to do much shopping. We had had such a big breakfast that morning that lunch consisted of milk shakes from McDonald's! We got home in the middle of the afternoon and picked up Harper, who enjoyed her time at doggie day care, but missed us so very much!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Changing Earrings!

The 4th of July weekend held another exciting event for us. It was time for the girls to change earrings!

Alpha wore monkey bottle cap earrings.

Beta wore bumblebee earrings:
Our first outing with earrings was to the NWA Mall Fashion Show. We watched it a few minutes, but then decided we'd rather shop in Claire's. MUCH more fun!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fabulous Fourth!

Well, yesterday was the 4th of July. For the first time ever, we celebrated it in our very own house! The first year we moved up here, 2006, we celebrated it in the "temporary house", as I coined it, where we lived while our current house was being built. The next 4 years, we were always down in Little Rock visiting family. But this year, with my knee being bummed and having 2 trips to Little Rock in the past month under our belt anyway, we decided to stay home.

We had a wonderful weekend! It felt like a stay-cation rather than just a weekend. Friday night, Jim and I went on a date. (Thank you whoever got us the Pesto Cafe gift card at Christmas!) Saturday, we went to a fashion show at the NWA Mall and saw the first round of an ice cream eating contest. The fashion show was kind of boring so we ended up shopping at Claire's, the girls' new favorite store. (earrings and all that.....)

Saturday night, the mall hosted a fireworks show. It was great! Free entertainment. We sat outside our van and ate snacks waiting on the show to start. Little J4 LOVED it! He clapped and stomped and squealed!

But right now I want to talk about last night. Well, or just show pictures. That's why everyone "reads" blogs anyway, right? LOL!

For starters, we had a cookout. Jim grilled some hamburgers and hot dogs. Since he was the one who went to the grocery store for me last week, he bought exactly what was on my list! Hence, we had no potato chips, potato salad, french fries, or anything like that. bad. We did have hamburgers and hot dogs and they were mighty tasty! Jim is definitely a grill master!

Then, partly because I'd been considering it all week, and partly due to my friend Amy's blog, I made a flag cake. Mine is hardly the "Best Ever", but it was good. At least Jim and the kids ate it.

After supper, we shot off fireworks. And with 2 girls in the house and a safety conscious father......

We shot off.......smoke balls!

We've even officially left our mark on this place: Oops.....

I was very proud of both girls. They each learned how to light a smoke ball safely. I'm also proud of J4 for not being scared of fireworks at all!
And for learning how to sit STILL in a chair and not stand in it:
Well, ok, maybe we're still working on that......(he later fell sideways out of this very chair. Didn't have time to get a picture of that one....)

Here is the front walk all set up:
The boys weren't totally left out with only "girlie" fireworks to shoot. Jim and J4 had 100 firecrackers! I think they shot maybe 30 or so.....and by "they", I mean Jim. J4 can learn how in a few years.

A firecracker:
A ground flower:
Tequila Sunrise Fountain, Stage 1:
Tequila Sunrise Fountain, Stage 2:
Alpha couldn't pronounce "tequila", and I was rather pleased at that.

To top the night off, we had 4 or 5 neighbors in various places in our neighborhood, who went all out. They bought the family packs. The BIG ONES! The artillery shells or whatever they're called. So we saw this around us all night:

We got to enjoy those nice big fireworks, like they had at the show on Saturday night, a second time! From our very own yard. Without paying a cent for them! Awesome!

I could have sat out there all night under the stars watching the big fireworks. But that's about when J4 fell out of the chair and started crying so I ended up going and putting him to bed. Ah well. It was still an awesome weekend!