Author: ajonsson31

I am a wife, a mama, and a daughter of the most High King. I love to bake, love all things 'Doctor Who', 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Harry Potter', am a total book worm and theatre nerd. I believe that life is full of adventures disguised as "ordinary"; you just have to think outside of the small box the world gives you in order to see it.

The Very Last Post

So I know that I said that I was done with this site, and I am. But I had to pop over one last time to encourage anyone who is still following this web address of my site to switch over to my new and improved web site. It’s seriously gorgeous! So click the link below to head over to the new site and hit that ‘follow’ button so you can continue to journey with me through the crazy days of motherhood, baking, and serving Christ.

http://www.myownunexpectedjourney.com

See you where the grass is greener!

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I’m Moving

Some exciting news guys! My post, “Dear 2 Year Old: You’re Making the Baby Cry” is being published on Scary Mommy today! I am thrilled to be teaming up with such a fun website and community of Moms.

In celebration, I decided to give my site a face lift. My husband knows a lot about web design, so I enlisted him to help me in this task. By “help me” I of course mean “do all of it for me because I have no idea how to do this stuff”. He is such a rock star; my new site looks amazing! But, I am now hosting my site through WordPress.org instead, so this post is the last one that will be on this site. If you’ve been typing in my address as http://www.myownunexpectedjourney.com then nothing is changing for you. But if you’ve been coming here by typing in http://www.myownunexpectedjourney.wordpress.com then you need to update your bookmark so that you can continue on this crazy adventure of motherhood with me.

Just to be clear, THIS IS THE LINK FOR MY NEW SITE:

http://www.myownunexpectedjourney.com

Go check out the new digs! The hubby really pimped it out for me.

And please go check out my post on Scary Mommy! And then share it with everyone you know ūüėČ

Thank you for joining me on this crazy ride!

Dairy Free Chocolate Maple Bacon Cupcakes

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Yes, you read that correctly–I put chocolate, maple and bacon together. In a cupcake. Win, win, win, win!

I got the idea from this bacon cupcake¬†but honestly didn’t really follow that recipe at all. For starters, that cake recipe called for sour cream, which is really impossible to substitute for when one is trying to make it dairy free. But the part that really turned me off of that recipe was that she put chopped up bacon inside the batter. I do not like soft bacon, and I knew that there was no way for the bacon to stay crispy after being baked inside a cupcake. So I took this marvelous idea for a bacon cupcake and made it my own.

The cake recipe is from one of my favorite dessert cookbooks:¬†Hershey’s Recipe Collection. I’ve had this since my single days, and I love it! Since I knew that the bacon and maple frosting was going to be pretty heavy, I wanted to go with a light and fluffy cake instead of dense and moist like I would usually pick. Hershey’s “1st Birthday Cupcakes” were exactly what I was looking for. Light, soft, fluffy, chocolately goodness, but not dry. There’s not as much cocoa powder in this recipe as compared to most other chocolate cake recipes, putting it more in the family of red velvet, but without all the food coloring. It’s perfect if you want a chocolate cake that still has all the glory that is chocolate without weighing you down.

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A note before I dive into the recipe: it calls for buttermilk, which can normally be substituted with a regular milk that is “soured” by distilled white vinegar. If you decide to use soy milk (or regular cow milk if you don’t have any allergies to worry about), then you can add the vinegar to the milk and then add that mixture to the batter. However, if you are using almond milk like I did, do NOT add the vinegar directly to the milk. It causes it to separate and when you add it to the batter, it doesn’t incorporate well. You have to add the milk and vinegar to the batter separately. Moreover, if you are a dairy eater and are using buttermilk, then omit the vinegar completely.

So here’s the recipe for these little lovelies (it will make a little over 2 dozen cupcakes).

Ingredients for Chocolate Cupcake:

  • 1/2 cup of all vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups of sifted sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup of sifted cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of almond milk
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons of distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Pour the almond milk into a glass measuring cup and mix in the baking powder. Baking powder is liquid reactive, so this will allow it to start activating before you add it into the batter, and give the batter a fluffier texture.
  • Cream the shortening with 1/2 cup of sifted sugar with the flat beater attachment until smooth.
  • Add the eggs, mixing well after each one.
  • Add the remaining sugar.
  • Add the baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract, allowing them to mix in.
  • Next, add the flour and cocoa powder. As you start the mixer, slowly add the almond milk so that the batter stays moist and doesn’t get crumbly.
  • Once everything is incorporated nicely, add in the vinegar.
  • Pour into cupcake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until it springs back when touched.

Now that the cupcakes are baked, let’s move on to the maple frosting.

As is the case with all of my frosting recipes, I did use a stick of margarine, which is not 100% dairy free. It contains the milk derivative ‘whey’. So if you have an allergy that cannot tolerate whey, you can use all vegetable shortening instead. Trust me, it will still be just as delicious!

Ingredients for Maple Frosting:

  • 1 stick of room temperature margarine
  • 1 cup of all vegetable shortening (or 1 1/2 if using all shortening)
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (Please buy the real deal; Aunt Jemima ain’t gonna cut it this time! Pure maple syrup is the only way to do these babies justice.)
  • 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:

  • I used to roll my eyes whenever I read “room temperature” anything in baking recipes, but I am noticing that it really makes a huge difference to use room temperature margarine where frosting is concerned. It’s just too hard to get it to smooth out nicely if it’s too cold. What’s that? You don’t have the patience or planning abilities to remember to set a stick of margarine out 2 hours before you’re ready to start baking? Me neither! Here’s a nice hack for you: put the stick of margarine in a microwave safe bowl, cover it with a paper towel to contain potential splatters, and pop it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. And just like that, you have room temperature margarine! Just be careful to not over heat it, which can happen quickly in the microwave. If it gets melty then you’ll have to trash it and try again. Runny margarine will completely ruin the texture of the frosting.
  • Once the margarine is room temperature, cream it using the flat beater attachment on the ‘2’ setting until it’s smooth.
  • Add the vegetable shortening and cream it on the ‘2’ setting, again until smooth. This may take a bit, and you may be tempted to up the speed, but don’t do it! Incorporating too much air is the death of smooth frosting.
  • Add in the first 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, allowing it to completely mix in before adding more.
  • After the second cup of powdered sugar, add in the maple syrup and vanilla extract.
  • Add in the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar, again 1 cup at a time. (I know this seems like a lot of powdered sugar, but the salty bacon will off set it. Plus the maple syrup makes it pretty soft; it really needs the extra powdered sugar to help it thicken up.)
  • Lastly, add in the sea salt. I feel that this part is all a matter of preference, so start with 1/2 teaspoon and taste it before adding in the other 1/2. I ended up going with a full teaspoon, but honestly once I topped it with bacon, it was almost a tad too salty. So take the sodium in the bacon into consideration too. Don’t get me wrong, the cupcakes were still awesome. I just realize that it might be a bit much for some people.

Then of course, there’s the most important component–the BACON! I used a total of 8 pieces of bacon. Personally, I like to cook my bacon in the oven because then there isn’t a bunch of grease splatters to clean up. 375 degrees for 20 minutes on a foil lined cookie sheet (it has to be a cookie sheet with a lip so the grease doesn’t spill out). When they’re done, pat the grease off with some paper towels. Then chop them up into little crunchy bits.

I chose to swirl the maple frosting on with my large open star tip, but use whatever you fancy. The frosting really just serves as the pillow to hold up the real prize of this cupcake–the bacon.

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It’s definitely more of a savory cupcake because it really isn’t very sweet. The chocolate and maple flavors are perfect side kicks to help highlight the salty, smokey, awesomeness that is bacon. I made them for Father’s Day, because they just seemed like a ‘manly’ cupcake. I mean, what guy doesn’t love bacon, right? Now I won’t lie to you–not everyone was crazy about them. They’re definitely a unique flavor that not everyone will be keen on. But the majority of people at the celebration really enjoyed them.

Bottom line–if you love bacon, you need to try these, because I don’t believe you will be disappointed!

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Happy Baking, Everyone!

Butterfly Cupcake Cake

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A week or so ago, my 4 year old got invited to a birthday party for one of her dance friends. As per usual, I offered to do a cake for her as a gift, because I just love being able to bless people. Especially with cake. I mean, what better gift can you give than one that is loaded with sugar?

The theme of this party was butterflies. Her mom sent me this pin from pinterest for inspiration:

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I agree with whoever wrote the description–the mini butterflies are overkill. Plus, they don’t even make sense. Why would a butterfly have other butterflies all over it? And what’s with the ginormous daisies (?) on the wings? Probably the cake decorator was just trying to jazz up an otherwise boring design. Needless to say, I was not very inspired by this picture. What I took from it were the two most important requests: they want a cupcake cake in the shape of a butterfly and they want the color scheme to be pink and green. Pink and green is my least favorite color combination. But, this is not my cake! The birthday girl wanted pink and green, so I was going to give her pink and green.

After a Google search for pink and green butterflies, I saved these two to base my design off of:

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I loved the color gradient in both of these, and knew that would be the best way to blend the pink and green together. I decided to do a light pink, a dark pink, a light green, and a dark green, to give it a smooth transition.

To make this cake I used:

I made an exciting discovery through making this cake–foam craft boards do not absorb the oil from the frosting, and therefore do not get grease marks! Plus they come in different colors and are much larger than your average cake board, which is ideal for cupcake cakes. But since they are so large, be sure to measure the width and length of your fridge shelf and cut that bad boy down to size with an X-Acto knife before you start building your cake.

First thing is to color your frosting.

Take your first batch of vanilla frosting and divide it in half and separate into two different bowls. Using a toothpick, add a little bit of pink gel color to one bowl and mix it in to get a light pink. Again using a toothpick, add pink gel color to the other bowl of frosting, but this time add just a smidge more so that you end up with a darker pink. Adjust both colors until you are happy with them, but be careful not to add too much gel color. You can always add a bit more to darken it, but you can’t take any out if you add too much and need to lighten it.

Take the second batch of frosting, repeat the process, this time using green gel color.

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When you’re done, you should have a nice gradient of color ranging from light pink to dark green.

Take your third batch of frosting and scoop about a quarter of it into a clean bowl. Then add some black gel color and mix it in. It takes quite a lot of the gel color to get a nice black, so don’t bother with the toothpicks on this one; just squeeze big drops in until you’re happy with the tone of black.

For the veining detailing on the wings, I decided to use grey, because I thought black would be a bit harsh. In retrospect, I think white would have been the best pick. If you want to use grey like I did, then take another quarter of that last batch of frosting and color it grey using a toothpick and the black gel color. If you want to do it in black, then instead of coloring a quarter of a batch above, color half of the batch black. If you want to do it in white, then obviously, don’t do anything to it.

Once all your frosting is tinted, it’s time to put the cake together. If you haven’t already cut your foam board down so that it will fit in your fridge, do that now. Since the board is so thick, I found it was easiest to score the board to get through the first half of it, and then go over the line with the X-Acto again to cut all the way through.

Then, assemble your cupcakes. Don’t attach them with frosting just yet; you’ll want to be able to move them around until you get the shape just right.

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Once you’re happy with your shape, carefully lift the cupcakes one by one and put a dollop of white frosting on the bottom and then reattach to the board. After you’ve done this to all of the cupcakes, fill in the gaps between cupcakes by piping white frosting directly into the holes. You don’t need to do this in between every single cupcake. Just fill in the larger holes so that when you’re frosting the “cake” the frosting won’t fall in between. You want to give the illusion that the top is one surface, so it has to be level and smooth.

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Then you need to let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes so that the frosting can harden. This is a really important step so that the cupcakes don’t slide around on you.

While it was setting up in the fridge, I worked on the fondant pieces. I already had white marshmallow fondant on hand that I had made a couple weeks back, so I took some of that out and colored it black with the gel icing color. To do this I took a toothpick and dipped it into the gel color, then wiped the toothpick on the fondant. Then I kneaded it like a dough until the color was evenly distributed. Even though it was only a small amount of fondant, it still took forever to knead all the black in! Helpful tip–wear disposable gloves while doing this so you don’t stain your hands. Once it was black, I took a bit of fondant and rolled it in between my hands to make a long tube for an antenna. When I was happy with the thickness and length, I laid it out on the board to come out of the butterfly’s head. Then I repeated that process, trying to match the second antenna to the first as best I could. Since this was for a kid’s birthday, I decided to give the butterfly a face. Using a #5 Wilton decorating tip, I punched out eyes. Then I rolled out a little smile with my hands. I set the eyes and smile on a plate while I worked on the rest of the cake.

Once the frosting is set, it’s time to decorate. I started with the wings, so that if any of the frosting accidentally got smeared on the butterfly’s body I could just cover it up later. I put the light pink frosting in an icing bag, but didn’t bother with a tip; I just cut the end of the bag. I was using the piping bags so that I could better control where I placed the frosting, but ultimately was going to smooth over it with a spatula, so it didn’t need to be super precise. Then I piped columns of frosting up and down the two columns of cupcakes closest to the butterfly’s body. I covered the next “column” of cupcakes with the dark pink frosting.

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Then I took my offset spatula and starting at the body of the butterfly, slowly smoothed out the frosting. You’ll have to do it a couple of times, so be sure to wipe the spatula clean before going over it again so the dark pink doesn’t get mixed up in the light pink.

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Once the pink is smoothed out, get your light green frosting and pipe it onto the next column of cupcakes. I wanted the pink to bleed a bit into the green, so when I went to smooth it out, I started in the dark pink and dragged it into the light green. It took a few strokes and you don’t want too much pink in the green, so be very careful to wipe the spatula clean each time.

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Finally, pipe on the dark green on the remaining cupcakes to make the wing tips of the butterfly. Since the dark green has the least amount of surface area, I didn’t want too much of the light green to bleed into it. Use extreme caution on this last smooth out. Then take the black frosting and pipe it onto the body of the butterfly. Smooth it out with your spatula, being really careful not to get any of it on your beautiful wings. You can put the fondant eyes and mouth on at this time.

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Using my butterfly pictures as a guide, I took a piping bag that was filled with the grey frosting and fitted with a #2 tip, and piped the veining. I’m right handed, so the right side was easier for me to do. The left side did not come out perfect, but since I was using regular frosting, I couldn’t just peel it off and try again like I can with royal icing, because regular frosting doesn’t harden the way royal does. Due to all of my kids being sick with colds and ear infections (and actually having to take our 2 year old to the ER because it got in her chest and she was having a hard time breathing), I had to do all of the decorating for this cake the night before the 11 am party. Thankfully, the baby allowed Daddy to hold her so she actually slept, allowing me to bang this bad boy out. Needless to say, I didn’t have time to make royal icing so I had to use regular frosting. If you have the time, I would highly suggest using royal icing for the veining. It’s much more forgiving.

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It looked a bit harsh to me like this. So in the haze of 1 in the morning logic, I decided to try a new technique: brush embroidery. Please note that this was really stupid, and I do not in any way endorse trying new things at the eleventh hour when you have no time to fix any potentially catastrophic mistakes. But that’s just kind of how I roll. I’m a perfectionist, and if something doesn’t look exactly right, I can’t just leave it. Since it was soft frosting on top of soft frosting (this technique is supposed to be done with royal icing), I thought using an actual paint brush would blend the grey frosting into the pink and green too much. So I chose to use the tip of a toddler butter knife instead. To do the effect, you simply put the brush (or knife, in my case) and place it on a spot of the line. Then you gently pull the frosting, giving it a brush stroke look. Repeat a gazillion times until every inch of grey frosting has been brushed.

My gamble paid off, and it gave the effect that I was looking for! I like to think that it gives the wings the illusion of fluttering. It took forever to do, but I feel it was well worth it.

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To finish it off, I placed white nonpareils on the wing tips.

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There you have it! A beautiful ombre butterfly cupcake cake.

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The birthday girl was very happy, and her mom called it, “Stunning!” I was very happy with the way it turned out and really enjoyed putting it together. If any of you try your hand at this cake, please share pictures of how yours came out!

For the Days When You Cry on the Kitchen Floor

Image via @WomenIRL on Instagram

Image via @WomenIRL on Instagram

It’s happened to all of us before. Little things and maybe even a few big things build up to create the perfect storm that take you to a place of overwhelm and sends you straight to the kitchen floor in a puddle of your own tears. I’ve had many of these moments since becoming a mom, and I know that I will have many more in the years to come. The details of what sent me to the kitchen floor this morning are irrelevant; the point is that I was there. You know what it feels like; you’ve been there too. When you feel like nothing is within your control, and all you can do is cry. You feel absolutely hopeless and it’s suffocating.

Here’s the deal–we are not in control. We never were, and never will be. Control is an illusion that will drive you mad if you attempt to pursue it. Yet it’s something that we crave so deeply, it seems impossible to let go.

So there I was, crying on the kitchen floor, feeling as though the house was suffocating me. As far as I saw, I had two options:

  1. Try to shove it down, and push through the day as planned running errands and doing laundry.
  2. Say ‘screw it’ and get out of the house, even if I still had to take all the kids with me.

Usually, I pick the first option because life has to move on. The laundry never stops, and someone’s gotta do it. But today, I decided to leave the piles of clothes and empty pantry and do something for myself. Something that, at that moment, I desperately needed. We live 10 minutes away from a river, and water always has a way of calming me. So I got the girls dressed, packed a picnic and ran away to the beach.

There’s just something about being in nature that helps a mind that’s spinning out of control to reset, if you will.

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If you focus, you can feel God’s presence in the perfectly blue skies, in the soft lapping of the water against your feet, and the sweet, cool breeze blowing through your hair.

I am with you.

And even though nothing has changed really, you feel at peace because you know God is working on something good for your life.

Nothing is forever.

It will not always be this hard.

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Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like the rest of this day was suddenly peaches. The life guard wouldn’t let the kids use the floaties that I spent 20 minutes blowing up, pushing a stroller in sand was impossibly hard, the baby woke up when I tried to transfer her to the stroller and screamed the whole time I packed up our stuff, and I am writing this post on my phone from the floor of the older girls’ room because they are fighting me on nap AGAIN. But my stores have been revitalized enough that I’m not a crumbling mess on the floor. My mind is focused on God again, and I am able to hold on to the promises He has made, knowing, not just hoping but¬†knowing,¬†that He will keep those promises.

So the next time you have one of those days that sends you crying on the kitchen floor, know that you are still a good mom. Know that you are not alone. Know that nothing is forever. It will not always be this hard.

And get yourself outside; to water if you can. It really does help.

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The Best Dairy Free Chocolate Frosting

wpid-wp-1421600809992.jpegLast week I shared my favorite dairy free vanilla frosting with you, and today I am going to share it’s chocolate counterpart.

I know that dairy eaters would read the title of this post and scrunch their noses at chocolate that doesn’t have milk as if it were a mutant bastard child. But trust me–they would never know that this frosting didn’t have their precious dairy in it! It is not bitter at all, but is smooth and sweet, while still packing a full chocolate flavor.

I used it for my husband’s birthday cake this year, and he declared it his favorite frosting of all time. Considering that he’s a dairy loving Midwestern (from Wisconsin, no less), this was a very high compliment!

Try it out–you will not be disappointed!

A quick note: stick margarine is not 100% dairy free. It contains a milk derivative called ‘whey’. If you cannot tolerate whey, then use all vegetable shortening. The result will be just as delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 containers of marshmallow fluff (also called marshmallow creme)
  • 1 stick of margarine
  • 1 cup of vegetable shortening (or 1 1/2 cups, if you are omitting the margarine)
  • 1/2 cup of sifted cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups of sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 splashes of vanilla almond milk

Directions:

  • Mix marshmallow fluff until smooth with the flat beater attachment on the ‘stir’ speed setting.(*HELPFUL TIP* Run a rubber spatula under hot water before scooping out the marshmallow fluff to make it come out super easy. It makes a world of difference getting all that sticky deliciousness out.)
  • Add half a margarine stick and mix on the ‘2’ speed setting until smooth. Then add the other half and mix until smooth.
  • Add the shortening half a cup at a time, allowing it to smooth out completely before adding more.
  • Add the SIFTED cocoa powder, again allowing it to smooth out completely.
  • Add 1 cup of SIFTED powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the frosting to completely smooth out each time before adding more.
  • Add the vanilla extract.
  • If it seems a little thick, add a splash of almond milk. I usually end up adding 2 splashes, but this again is all a matter of preference.

The trick to this frosting is to not over whip it. If it gets too much air in it, then you will see holes in it when you are covering your cake. Do not put your mixer any higher than the ‘2’ speed setting. It will take longer, but be worth it when it comes out nice and smooth!

This recipe will yield enough frosting to cover two 8″ or 9″ round cakes, a 12″ x 9″ rectangle cake, or two dozen cupcakes. It will keep at room temperature for a couple days and for a couple of weeks in the fridge. It also freezes really well if you double wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then store it inside a freezer Ziploc bag. I can’t say how long it will last in the freezer as I’ve only kept mine in there for 3 months, but I would think that as long as it’s not freezer burnt that it would be fine. If you freeze it, allow it to come to room temperature and mix it in your mixer on the ‘stir’ speed setting for a minute or two until it’s smooth.

Enjoy!

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Father’s Day Gift Idea

Happy Saturday, everyone!

I wanted to drop in quickly to share what we did for Father’s Day gifts in case any of you procrastinated and need an idea for tomorrow. Actually, since the mugs have to cure for 8 hours this isn’t the best last minute idea. But it is do-able.

I’m not selling this very well, am I? There’s a reason I only lasted 3 days in retail (true story).

Let me try again.

Hey guys! I have a great Father’s Day gift idea to share with you! It’s totally original too–coffee mugs!

I know, totally not original. But honestly, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day gifts are kind of all the same, aren’t they? As long as it comes from the heart, mom and dad will love whatever you give them. Especially if the kids are invovled in whatever you put together.

Like my awesome and totally unique coffee mugs. I bought plain white mugs at the Dollar Store,

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and Deco Art ceramic markers from Hobby Lobby. If you are reading this a year from now and have time, click the link to order them from Amazon to save yourself the hassle of going out to buy them. Anyone who has shopped at Hobby Lobby with kids understands what a blessing online shopping really is. I mean, why do they put all that breakable stuff right at the front of the store at the perfect height for tiny hands to reach? It’s like they want it all to be smashed into smithereens.

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I went with the stupid expensive ceramic markers because I’ve tried the Sharpie trick before, and it washed off after a month (hand washing too, not even dishwasher). Mind you, when I say ‘stupid expensive’ I mean $4 a pop. Since I decided to buy every color of the rainbow, it added up quickly. What can I say? I over complicate things sometimes. But obviously you can use them again for other projects, so it’s not a total waste.

In case you’re wondering about the M&M’s cup in the picture, that is my husband’s coffee cup. I bought that for him when we first started dating 8 years ago and he has since drank his coffee in it every single day. I knew that he would never actually use a different cup, so I thought it would be cute to let the girls personalize his cup. Plus this way, his gift is almost free.

To prep the cups, clean the outer surface with a glass cleaner. Then give the markers a good shake, because they will run if you don’t. If they do run a bit while you’re working, you have a small window when you can very easily wipe it off with a paper towel.

Then for the fun part–let the kids doodle all over them!

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Bonus points if you have a kid who can write their names.

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Then you let them cure for 8 hours (I.E. Sit on the counter without the kids touching them). Last step is to bake them at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. When they’re done, turn the oven off, open the oven door, and let the cups cool inside the oven.

That’s it! Easy, right? Totally adorable, and dishwasher safe.

We did the same thing for Mother’s Day, but I forgot to buy myself a mug when I was shopping. So I took this opportunity to have them do mine too.

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I almost told Eowyn that she forgot an ‘m’ in Mommy, but I like it better this way.

If you want fancier mugs, then you can also buy plain white mugs at Target for around $3-$5 a pop. Mine was actually from Target. Not because I’m cheap with other people, but because when I went to buy mine the Dollar Store was out of stock.

Regardless of where you get your mugs, I know the dads and moms in your life will love these homemade lovelies!

I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day celebrating your awesome dads!

Dear 2 Year Old: You’re Making the Baby Cry


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Dear sweet, precious 2 year old of mine:

I know that you love your baby sister so much that you want to squeeze her, but she doesn’t like having all her insides shoved into her chest.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know that you have this weird ear fetish right now, and you think that other people like having their ears pinched together. But no one likes that.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were only trying to give the baby a drink of water because you thought she was thirsty. But I’m sure you know that her mouth is not on top of her head, and now she’s soaking wet.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were just chasing bandits on your stick horse, but you trampled the baby and smacked her in the face in the process.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were just trying to help her stand up because you wanted her to walk, but her legs aren’t strong enough yet, and neither are you based on how you dropped her.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were just trying to give her a hug, but you knocked her down sumo style instead.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were trying to help feed the baby, but onion skins are not for eating, and as it turns out, get stuck to the roof of one’s mouth.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you just wanted to cuddle, but when you climbed in her crib and fell on her, you scared her shitless.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were just copying Mommy and pretending to eat her chubby thigh. But when Mommy does it, she doesn’t use her teeth.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you wanted to teach the baby how to catch, but now she has a black eye.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you still don’t grasp that pinching people hurts them. But it does.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you really wanted to play with the baby’s toy even though you have 100 of your own, but damn it she had it first.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were only trying to get her dressed, but you have to undo the buttons before trying to ram her head through it.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you were just trying to give the baby a treat, but she’s too young for chocolate. Now I’m the bad guy who took it away and there is chocolate EVERYWHERE.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know that you just wanted to play hide and go seek and thought that the best place for her to hide would be underneath a blanket, but she hated that.

You’re making the baby cry.

I know you told her to run before you shot the arrow at her, but she can’t even crawl yet.

You’re making the baby cry.

 

In conclusion, my dear, sweet little angel of a toddler: I know that you love your baby, and are confused as to why she starts crying when she hears your angelic, screaming voice coming her way, but for the love of God LEAVE THE BABY ALONE!

Because you’re making the baby cry.


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Verse of the Day: More than You Can Imagine

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What’s the craziest thing you can imagine for your life? What is the most unattainable thing that you desire with all your heart, but that you don’t speak out loud because you believe it’s impossible for you to actually grasp?

You don’t need to tell me what¬†it¬†is for you. It’s different for everyone, and the goal or dream in and of itself doesn’t even matter. Because whatever¬†it is, God can make it happen. In fact, He even¬†wants¬†to make it happen. Going even further, God wants to do¬†more than whatever impossible thing that you are imagining.

The Bible gives us pretty clear instructions on this:

“Ask and it will be given to you,

Seek and you will find,

Knock, and the door will be opened.”

-Matthew 7:7

Being human, we tend to over complicate matters and can’t wrap our minds around simply asking for something and then getting it. You have to work hard for what you want, right? Well, trust me–asking for your biggest, wildest dream from God is going to be work. You’ll have to be like the persistent widow in Luke 18 and keep on asking, every day. You’ll have to summon hope in most likely a hopeless situation and hold on to your faith that God will finish the work He has started, even when that prowling lion is whispering every kind of doubt into your ear. You will have to wrestle with God like Jacob, refusing to let go until He blesses you. You will have to keep coming back to God with your request, feeling like a fool for even asking.

But here’s a thought–what if that impossible dream that’s been hiding in your heart was put there by God Himself?

God is waiting to open up the floodgates of heaven and bless you so much that you don’t even know what to do with it all.

So start asking!

 

The Best Dairy Free Vanilla Frosting

It’s taken me quite a long time to craft the perfect dairy free vanilla frosting. Using only sticks of margarine gives inconsistent results. I’ve managed to get it to a nice consistency before, as seen on my Thomas the Train cake:

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But I also had major issues with it turning out way too soft, like with my art deco smash cake:

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With both cakes, I used the exact same ingredients. Yet, as you can see, got completely different results.

I almost always have issues coloring all-margarine frosting too. More times than not, I would be left with white specks where the color didn’t quite stick.

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However, I think this was more of a mixing problem. I have found that mixing SLOWLY is the key to a good frosting. And you MUST soften the margarine before adding any powdered sugar. I’ve never been known for my patience, so this took me many years to figure out.

The smoothest frosting comes from using vegetable shortening. It still tastes good, but the margarine adds a depth of rich flavor that the shortening lacks. So, I wasn’t ready to give up on using margarine all together. I began experimenting with mixing margarine and shortening, and found that the best mix was 1 stick of margarine and 2 cups of shortening. The frosting was smooth, the color mixed through well, and the flavor was on the mark.

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The piped design is made of royal icing, but you can see how smooth the “buttercream” is underneath

Then I stumbled on this recipe for ‘Strawberry Dream Frosting’ on Pinterest. She uses marshmallow fluff with butter to create a really yummy flavor. I tried it for my daughter’s 2nd birthday, because she LOVES marshmallows. I modified the recipe a bit, using 1 stick of margarine and 1 cup of shortening, and using 3 cups of powdered sugar. Why more powdered sugar, you ask? Because frankly, I like my frosting sweet. And it wasn’t thick enough in my opinion with just 1/2 cup.

The result is a delicious frosting that pipes easily and can be used for frosting layer cakes as well. However, the marshmallow fluff doesn’t give a super smooth finish. As you can see in this¬†Frozen¬†cake, there are lots of air bubbles. But a lot of that could have been avoided if I would have kept my mixer at the speed ‘2’ setting.

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So if you’re looking for super smooth, this isn’t the recipe for you. But if you don’t mind a more “home grown” look, so to speak, you should try this recipe. It’s really delicious!

I can say that it pipes really well. I used this recipe for both the Tardis and the time vortex swirls on my Doctor Who cake:

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I also used it for this butterfly cupcake cake:

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I mixed it low and slow that time and, as you can see, got a much smoother result.

Let me state now that sticks of margarine are not 100% dairy free; they contain a milk derivative called ‘whey’. I would not suggest using tub margarine because it’s too soft. If your allergy is bad enough that you can’t tolerate whey, then simply use all shortening. I’ve successfully used 100% shortening with this recipe and gotten just as great results.

So here it is, my perfect vanilla frosting:

  • 2 containers of marshmallow fluff (also called marshmallow creme)
  • 1 stick of margarine
  • 1 cup of vegetable shortening (or 1 1/2 cups, if you are omitting the margarine)
  • 3 cups of sifted powdered sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • 2 splashes of vanilla almond milk

Directions:

  • Mix marshmallow fluff until smooth with the flat beater attachment on the ‘stir’ speed setting.(*HELPFUL TIP* Run a rubber spatula under hot water before scooping out the marshmallow fluff to make it come out super easy. This is written on the jar in the tiniest print imaginable, so I just barely learned this tip after months of making this stuff. It makes a world of difference getting all that sticky deliciousness out.)
  • Add half a margarine stick and mix on the ‘2’ speed setting until smooth. Then add the other half and mix until smooth.
  • Add the shortening half a cup at a time, allowing it to smooth out completely before adding more.
  • Add 1 cup of SIFTED powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. If you feel you’ve reached a consistency and flavor that you like before adding all 3 cups, then don’t feel the need to add more. It’s all a matter of preference.
  • Add the vanilla extract (or whatever flavor extract you want). I don’t measure when I add extract. I just add it a bit at a time until it tastes right. Again, it’s all about preference.
  • If it seems a little thick, add a splash of almond milk. I usually end up adding 2 splashes, but this again is all a matter of preference.

The trick to this frosting is to not over whip it. If it gets too much air in it, then you will get holes as seen in the¬†Frozen cake above. Do not put your mixer any higher than the ‘2’ speed setting. It will take longer, but be worth it when it comes out soft and smooth!

This recipe will yield enough frosting to cover two 8″ or 9″ round cakes, a 12″ x 9″ rectangle cake, or two dozen cupcakes. It will keep at room temperature for a couple days and for a couple of weeks in the fridge. It also freezes really well if you double wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then store it inside a freezer Ziploc bag. If you freeze it, allow it to come to room temperature and mix it in your mixer on the ‘stir’ speed setting for a minute or two until it’s smooth.

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I hope you enjoy this delicious frosting as much as I do!