Friday, November 29, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fluffy White Frosting

The other day, I did something that I never do.  I bought some Ding Dongs for my boys.  They, of course, were very excited and devoured them way too quickly, with the exception of son #3.  He wanted to save his until after he came home from school the next day, so I put it up in top of the cupboard to wait.

The following day, I noticed a Ding Dong wrapper on my counter.  I went to check on the Ding Dong in the top of the cupboard and it was gone.  It turns out that my husband ran onto it and helped himself, not knowing that son #3 was saving it for an after-school snack.  When my son got home he was devastated, so to make it up to him, I offered to make these fabulous chocolate cupcakes with fluffy white frosting.  They were as close as I was going to come to a homemade version of a Ding Dong.  Luckily, my son brightened right up at the prospect and we got baking.

These cupcakes are light and moist and oh so much better than any boxed mix, and the frosting ( a version of 7-minute frosting) is right up my alley - - light and not overly sweet, plus it is pretty easy to make.  So, I hope you enjoy these as much as we did.

Click here for a printable version of these recipes.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 cupcake cups with paper baking cups. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, vanilla, cocoa, soda, and sat.  Mix well.  Combine the sour cream and the buttermilk.  With the mixer on low, add the flour and buttermilk mixture alternately, in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour.  Mix the batter only until blended.

Scoop the batter into the prepared baking cups and bake in the center of the oven for 18 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool to room temperature before frosting.

Fluffy White Frosting

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, egg whites, water, and cream of tartar.  Whisk until combined.  Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.  Whisk together over the water until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch - about 3-5 minutes.  Transfer the bowl to the mixer which has been fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on high speed for about 12 -15 minutes until the frosting forms stiff peaks.  Add vanilla and beat to combine.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Few Things . . .

Wow!  I have been absent from this blog for awhile.  I won't bore you with all of the details of the past month.  I will just say that October was a month that I was very glad to see come to an end.  Hopefully now, we can get back to more of a predictable way of life around here.

I am hopelessly behind on my cleaning grand plan, but I did manage to finish my kitchen, with the exception of the pantry.  I also finished my boys bathroom and the master bathroom.

I did manage to accomplish a few other things around here, like a little trip with the family for Fall Break, Halloween parades and trick-or-treating with the kids, an outing to the mountains to enjoy the fall colors, and another community craft fair.

In addition, I pulled off a fun train cake for my four-year-olds birthday.

This was easy and fun to make and he LOVED it!  I found the idea here.

I also finished up this cute little baby quilt with scraps left over from the quilt I made for my baby a couple of years ago.

It is a cute Modern Irish Chain pattern. It was fun and easy to piece. This is a pretty good look at what the pattern looks like.

And this is a more accurate picture of the colors.
I really don't need a baby quilt, but this turned out so cute, I am not sure I can part with it.  We will see. It may turn up in the shop one of these days.
Now, if things just calm down a bit, I will keep up with this blog a little better.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Well - - I took an unintentional blogging break, due to the fact that I was down with the flu.  So, after three days of doing nothing but laying in bed and feeling horrible and another week of taking it easy, I am finally ready to get back to the day to day routine.

I am hopelessly behind on my cleaning grand plan, but will try to pick that up again this week, once my house is put back into some sort of livable condition.

While I was taking it easy, I did manage to accomplish a couple of things.

I got out my favorite 2x4 pumpkins.

And I pulled out the Halloween quilt.  I don't think I ever blogged about this one, but I made it last year and my boys fight over it all month long.  I love it!!

That was the extent of my Halloween decorating this year.  Sorry boys, but when mom starts the month of October with a temperature of 102, that is what happens.

I also finished piecing my latest quilt top.  It will probably be a while before this one gets quilted, but I am happy with how it is looking so far.
Now - off to fold laundry...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Progress - or not

After my last post last week, things got a little crazy around here, so I didn't accomplish much more in my kitchen. I was able to clean out and organize all of the drawers in my kitchen.  I will be kind this time and spare you the boring pictures, except for this one . . .

Don't you just love all of those cute, crocheted pot holders?  I received them as gifts way back when I got married and I still love, love, love them.  I hope they never wear out.

Well, I'm off.  I have a lot of work to do in that kitchen this week, if I am going to stay on schedule.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cleaning Grand Plan Update

Today is super busy and I am not sure that I am going to get to what I hoped to accomplish on my cleaning/organizing schedule - we will see - fingers crossed.  But, I wanted to check in quickly with what I was able to accomplish yesterday.  I know this post will be pretty boring, but honestly, sometimes the fact that I feel I need to report my progress on this blog, helps get me going, so bear with me please.

Yesterday, I cleaned and organized the upper cabinets in my kitchen.  I even took some pictures- which are pretty pathetic, the lighting in our kitchen is sorely lacking, but posting them makes me feel like I can prove I really did something - so here goes...

This is my baking/cooking cupboard.  I have big plans for reorganizing this, but I am waiting until I paint the cupboards - hopefully this fall.  So, I just wiped it out and straightened up a bit.

This cupboard mostly holds storage containers and mixing bowls.  It just got wiped out and straightened up a bit as well.

This is the cupboard that holds vitamins and medicine.  I already had it organized this way, but it needed some major straightening and I also replaced the labels on the bins.  It looks much better now.

Finally, this cupboard usually looks like this, but it got emptied, wiped down and then the dishes were replaced as they were before.
I know it is hard to believe, but I actually spared you the most boring pictures.  Yikes!!  The only upper cabinet I did not get to is the one that holds my cookbooks. It is completely full and I need to spend some time doing some editing.  I will hopefully get to that in the next few days.
Okay, I feel a little better having reported my progress.  Now, I need to boogie.  The day is calling and it is a busy one.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

Yesterday, I made my family our favorite blueberry muffins for breakfast and decided to snap a picture and share this recipe.  The muffins are light and mildly sweet with a delicious streusel topping.  They don't last long around here.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Blueberry Muffins

Recipe from Betty Crocker Cookbook Bridal Edition
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 400F.  Grease bottoms only of 12 standard muffin cups or line with paper baking cups.  Make streusel topping (recipe below) and set aside.  Beat milk, oil, and egg in a large bowl with fork or wire whisk. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt all at once, just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy).  Fold in blueberries.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Sprinkle each with about 1 Tbsp topping.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Streusel topping

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2Ttbsp. firm butter

Mix flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter until crumbly.


A quick update on my Cleaning/Organizing Project:

Last Friday, the big boys and I finished up the Living Room.  I just have to share this picture I took when we pulled back the large area rug and cleaned the hardwood underneath.  I think it is just so pretty.

Today, I moved on to the kitchen.  I am planning on spending two full weeks on this room, and it needs it.  I decided to take a top down approach to the kitchen, so,today, I wiped off the tops of my upper cabinets.  I used to have décor that sat up there, but about a year ago, I decided that I was tired of the amount of time it took me to clean everything up there and took it all down.  It has been so nice.  Now cleaning above the upper cabinets takes about 1/10th of the time and I think I prefer the simpler look as well.

 I also cleaned off the top of my refrigerator, which lately had become quite a mess.  I would prefer to keep the top of the refrigerator completely clear, but unfortunately, my pantry cupboard is pretty small, so the top of the fridge is the only place to keep the cold cereal.  Obviously, I need to restock, but all of these cereal containers are clean and ready to be refilled after my shopping trip tomorrow.

I also straightened up the cupboard above the fridge.  It holds stuff that we don't use all that often, like picnic supplies and insulated bags.

Tomorrow, I plan to get to the rest of the upper cabinets.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Checking In

Just a quick update, as promised, on my Cleaning Grand Plan progress.  I continued in the living room and will be finished with it today.  In the past couple of days I managed to accomplish the following:

  • Vacuum and spot clean all upholstered pieces.
  • General pick-up and de-cluttering - there wasn't much in this room, thank goodness.
  • Dust and Clean piano and tables.

  • Replace my normal throw pillow covers with the ones I made last year to be used in the fall. 

(My boys were surprisingly really happy to see these again.)
  • Clean the train table - I know it is kind of weird that we have this in the living room, but it is the only place in our house that we have room for it and I am not giving it up.  It entertains my little boys for hours on end.

Today, my big boys and I are finishing up this room after they get home from school.  They are going to help me scrub baseboards and flooring transitions and then we are going to roll up the large area rug and give the hardwood floor a thorough cleaning, finally, we will replace the area rug and give it one final vacuum and the living room should be sparkling.  Feels good!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday's Tip - One of My Favorite Cleaning Supplies

One of my favorite cleaning supplies is one designed for your teeth.  I have found a toothbrush to be a handy little tool for cleaning the house as well as those pearly whites.  (Of course,  I never use the same one for both. Ewwww!)

I use a toothbrush for cleaning all sorts of hard to reach places such as, window tracks, flooring transitions, corners, where the baseboard meets the floor, etc.  I also use them for scrubbing tile grout.  I wouldn't be without one when I am trying to do a really detailed cleaning.  I try to always have several on hand, but I buy them on the cheap, they don't need to be the same good quality that you would use in your mouth.

Now, onto my progress on the cleaning grand plan . . .

Today, I moved into the living room and accomplished the following:
  • Cleaned the light fixture and ceiling fan.
  • Washed the window and windowsill.
  • Cleaned out the window track (using a handy-dandy toothbrush).
  • Cleaned the blinds.
  • Washed the curtains.
  • Washed the walls.
  • Cleaned the mirror.
  • Dusted all the art hanging on the walls.
I don't take many pictures of what I have accomplished.  I don't want to bore you to tears, but I just have to share this one.

Window tracks can get gross fast and it makes me feel so good to see one looking like this.  Is that weird?

Monday, September 9, 2013

14 Week Cleaning Grand Plan

Summer was hard on my house.  Well, truth be told, having five boys at home all summer was hard on my house.  It is in definite need of a good scrub down and some major organizing.  I have had a hard time getting motivated to do this.  I went looking to Pinterest to help me find some inspiration and found several plans where you clean and organize your house in 2 weeks or 30 days.   Those plans made me more discouraged than inspired.  I just couldn't imagine tackling a summer's worth of dirt and mess in such a short period of time, and then I remembered the 14 week cleaning Grand Plan.  I used it to get my house in perfect order before my last baby came.  It is a totally doable plan, because you focus on one room a week.  This allows you the time to give the room all the attention it needs without having to dedicate your entire life to it.

So, today I started my 14 week grand plan.  I won't be doing everything in exact order, but I will get to all of it and I am going to hold myself accountable by blogging about my progress.  I will try to keep these posts short and sweet, because most of them will probably be pretty boring.  And don't worry, I will be sure to sprinkle in some of the other fun stuff I do too.

Today I started with the entryway of my house.  The 14 week grand plan allows for an entire week for this, but my entryway is really small and is basically part of my living room, so I decided to give it one day and then spend the rest of the week on the living room.  This will allow me two full weeks in my kitchen, which makes me feel a lot less stressed about tackling that room

Today I:
  • Scrubbed down the door, door frame, baseboards, and walls.
  • Scrubbed the tile and grout in the entryway.
  • Washed the entryway area rug.
  • Did touch up painting where needed in the entry.
  • Cleaned the light fixture.
  • Cleaned off the large hook shelf and then got out a few of my fall decorations and re-decorated a bit.  I am not in love with this look, but I want to keep it simple, since I will be changing the décor on this shelf pretty much every month for the next few months.
This was a pretty simple day, but it feels good to have one area in my house that is perfectly clean.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Why I Am Turning Off Comments - For Now

For a long time this blog was private.  Yup!  I just wrote and posted and never told a soul about it.  It was a place for me to record and enjoy some of the domestic things that I loved doing.  A place away from the boys where I could be as girly as I wanted to be.  I didn't think that anyone would really be very interested in the kind of stuff that I was writing about anyway.  Then one day, I was looking through some of my old posts and thought that a few of them did actually contain some information that someone out there might enjoy reading.  I also thought about all of the blogs that have taught me, inspired me, and brought a smile to my face over the years.  So, if something in my blog could do the same for a person or two out there, shouldn't I share it?  I gathered up my courage and made the blog public.

Slowly, a few people other than myself started reading my blog.  I even participated in a few linky parties, but other than that I haven't really worried about my blog "stats".  A few comments trickled in here and there, and I enjoyed and appreciated every one of them.  Then suddenly, I started worrying about comments.  Why wasn't I getting more?  My blog stats were showing that my blog had daily visitors from all over the world.  It was then that I realized in order to get comments, you need to start giving them.

I have a few blogs that I follow religiously.  Have I ever made a comment?  Maybe one or two, but it is hard for me to do it.  I am not sure why, and the thought of having to make loads and loads of comments in hoping that a few of those people will check out my blog and comment back fills me with anxiety.  On top of that, I feel like, at this time in my life I am lucky to get a blog post up, let alone spend a lot of time commenting on other blogs.  So, I feel really bad about not being a major blog commenter.  I know I should be better because I appreciate all of the people that put so much into their blogs and all the inspiration they have given me and all I have learned from them. Maybe someday.  I hope so, I really do.

But, until then,  I am turning off comments.  I just want to write and share and not worry about it, like I did back in the old days.  In that same breath, I want to say that I love, love, love, hearing from my readers and I don't want to cut you off, so if you ever have a question or comment feel free to send me a quick e-mail at the address listed under "contact me" on my top navbar.  I try to reply back to all e-mails as quickly as I can.

Sorry about the long, boring post.  I promise that next week I will be back with some things that will hopefully be a little more fun and interesting.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mason Jar Drink Cups

These cute little mason jar drink cups were my top sellers at last weekends craft fair.  They basically flew out the door as soon as the place opened.

I used the vintage style pint-sized mason jars to make the cups and I used the same method as in this tutorial.  

I added a cute paper straw and they just couldn't be resisted.  To be honest, it was really hard for me to give them up.

I am definitely going to have to make a few more of these.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Knob Jars

I made quite a few knob jars for last weekends craft fair.  I was trying my hardest to only make things using what I had on hand.  I had these cute jars and knobs taking up space in my craft supplies and decided to see if I could make some simple knob jars out of them.  I painted the lids to have kind of a faux zinc finish using this tutorial.

I drilled a hole in the center of each lid and screwed the knobs in place.  I think they turned out pretty cute.

I did the same thing with these plain, but larger jars and knobs.

I really love how they turned out.

Finally I made some larger candy jars out of pickle jars and candle sticks.  The awesome lids are made from tuna cans - no kidding.  You can find the tutorial on how to make your own here.

I think they are really fun.

Most of these knob jars sold.  I have a few knobs left in my collection, so I will have to start saving up jars to make some more for the next craft fair.

I was happy with how these sold, but they weren't the top sellers.  I will post about those tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Scalloped Magnet Boards

These scalloped magnet boards started out pretty cute to begin with.  I just added some vinyl embellishments and a ribbon hanger and had them for sale at the craft fair last weekend.

They didn't sell there, but I think I may have overpriced them just a little, since I saw a lot of people looking at them and commenting on  how cute they were.  I might have to come down a dollar or two and see what happens at the next craft fair in October.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Craft Fair Display

Last Saturday, I took part in a small community craft fair.  I set up a simple display and sold many of the items that I have been working on over the past several weeks.  I blogged about a few of the things I made last week, and I will blog over this next week about a few of the other projects that I made for the fair.  For today, here is a glimpse of part of my display.

I think it was a simple and happy display and it went over well. 

I sold some of everything located on this table, except for the scalloped magnet boards.  I may have to come down in price on those before the next craft fair in October.  My top sellers weren't on this table, but they flew out the door almost as soon as it opened.  I will be blogging about them in the next few days.

It was a successful day.  Well worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Little Framed Magnetic Chalkboards

I have made a few of these simple framed magnetic chalkboards to try to sell at the upcoming craft fair. 

They are super easy, just find a frame with a 5x7 opening.  Paint it if desired.

Then get some 5x7 shingle flashing.  (I found mine in the roofing department at Lowe's.  It was awhile ago, so I don't remember exactly how much this package cost, but I know it wasn't expensive.) Paint one side of the metal piece with chalkboard paint and let it dry overnight, then prime it as explained in this tutorial.

Remove the glass from the frame and replace it with your chalkboard surface.  Put everything back together.

At this point, your cute chalkboard is ready for use.  Get out the chalk and write or doodle to your hearts content.
Add a cute magnet, and this chalkboard can also be used to hold notes, cards, etc.
So cute and so, so easy!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Knob Boxes

I have been busy getting ready for a craft fair I am participating in this weekend.  I made these little knob boxes to sell, but I like them so much, I am afraid I am going to price them a lot higher than I normally would, in hopes that I will get to keep them for my office space.  If someone is willing to pay what I am planning on asking, then they can have them, anything less, and I would prefer to just keep them for myself.

They were simple to make.  I found the unfinished boxes at the Target dollar spot a few months ago.  I simply painted the outside a nice, soft gray color and oiled the inside to bring out the natural wood grain.

I then added a black and white knob to each one.  I like how they coordinate without completely matching.

Yup! I would definitely be happy to keep these cute little knob boxes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This and That

My boys are back in school, so in addition to the normal cleaning, laundry, meals, etc. around here, I have been able to accomplish a few other fun things.

I made a couple of cute zippered pouches for my sister. 

I made several more simple zippered pouches out of some scrap fabric and little zippers I had on hand.

For these, I used the same method as explained in my tutorial here.

I cut out my latest quilt project - - can't wait to start sewing on it!!

I made a new big batch of cream of chicken soup mix. (Recipe found here.)  This mix is great.  I use it in all my recipes that call for canned cream of chicken soup and my family has never noticed the difference.  This is so much cheaper and less processed that I am never buying the canned stuff again.

It feels great to finally accomplish a few things other than the "essentials."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tiny Laundry Room Reorganization

This summer I made a few changes to my very small laundry room to make it a little more functional for our large family.  This laundry room reorganization has made a big difference and has made tackling laundry for a large family much easier.  I apologize for the quality of the pictures in this post, there is absolutely no natural light in our laundry room and it is so small, it is hard to get pictures from good angles.

First - - the before:

I had one shelf in this room for storage and it was way too high to be easily accessible.

We had a door into this room that took up a whole lot of valuable wall space.

We removed the door from this room and put nice molding around the door frame.  This allowed us to make room for sorting bins along that wall.  I found some tall laundry baskets and then just used vinyl on the wall behind each of them to help everyone know where to put their dirty laundry. The boys are still learning how this works, but it is getting better and better all the time.

Next to the sorting bins, I have a bookcase that holds large bins for each of my boys' clean clothes.  Once I fold their clean clothes, I put them in their labeled bins and then they take them to their rooms and put them away as part of their daily chores.  We have had this system in place for several months and it works great!!

I labeled each of the boys' bins with a wood cut-out that I painted green and then cut their names out of vinyl and applied them to the wood.  The cut-outs are attached to the bins with glue.

We installed three shelves over the washer. The bottom two are much more easily accessed than the one before.  The top one is tougher to get to, but I store stuff up there that I don't need regularly.  It is nice to have gained a lot more storage space in this room.  I also "went shopping" around my house for some prettier containers to hold my laundry supplies.  And because I get asked all the time - I will just tell you - the tennis balls are thrown in my dryer with my pillows and duvets that have been washed.

We installed a small closet rod between the top shelf and the wall to allow me to easily hang up stuff that I don't want to put in the dryer, or clothes that need to be hung immediately out of the dryer.

We also painted the walls in this room a soft blue-gray with white trim.  I love the colors!!  I wish these pictures did them justice.

And now, for a couple of final looks at this room from the doorway . . .

Making this room over has been one of the best things I have done to this house in a long time.  It was worth all the time and the minimal amount of money we had to put into it. The laundry room is so much more functional for our family, and it is a much more pleasant place for me to work.

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