Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cupcake Toppers for Kids!

The past two days, I mostly spent my time working on birthday cakes and cupcakes for my cutie-pie nephew's birthday party, which was today.  I started decorating cakes in the fall of 2009, when I took a class at Michael's.  Though I am thankful for the class for getting me motiviated, I can't really say that it is necessary to make fun cakes.  I think most everyone can do it!

One thing that I have been experimenting with lately is color flow.  I was introduced to it in the class, but a class definitely isn't necessary for understanding it!  It is quite simple, and I truly believe anyone can do it!  It's like coloring! (And who doesn't love coloring?  ...seriously...)  Basically, you can make small, hardened sugar designs out of colorflow.  In class we made a blue bird for a cake, but I found that it works exceptionally well making little do-dads for cupcakes.  It's awesome, because you can match it to any theme or color scheme (I just find images that I like online), and you don't have to be an expert cake decorator to use it!

I generally google the images I want to make into cupcake toppers.  Jaxon is having a Buzz Lighyear themed party, so I found the Toy Story aliens, stars, moons, planets, rockets, and the Toy Story 2 number 2.  If I find something that is close to what I want, I crop it to make it the right size.  I also do a test print and adjust the size according to what would look best on the cupcake (and I try to fit as many on a page as possible).  Honestly, I probably went a little bit overboard.  Like I said before, I think anyone can do this, but if you are pressed for time, I would stick to just a few colors and simple designs.  I had 6 designs and 5 colors and made 130.  The whole process took about 4 1/2 hours...because I'm ridiculous.  It really doesn't have to take that long.  However, I would wait until you have a chunk of time to start the project, especially if it is your first time.

Below are the pictures I used to make the designs.  I just got some images online and copy/pasted them into an Open Office document.  The aliens needed to be cropped, as well as the two.  As you can many on a page as possible (without them touching).

I also think you need a plan for colors.  This is one of my cake "plans."  It's cheesy and hand drawn, but it helps me to get an idea of how colors will coordinate and such.  I have the colors planned for the designs, the cupcake liners, and the frosting, as well as what flavor gets what color.  If you make one, it will help with the process.  I promise.

Pictured below is the colorflow.  It comes with instructions on how to make it.  One batch only requires 2 tablespoons, so this canister will last quite a while.  I'm not positive how much it costs, but I think it's around $8.  However, I always use 40% coupons at Michaels for this kind of thing, which makes it very affordable.  Other things you will need to make the colorflow is 1 pound of powdered sugar, water, gel icing colors, and disposable pastry bags.

I tape the paper on cookie sheets, then use double stick tape to adhere wax paper on top of it.  You can see the images through the wax paper.

Make the colorflow after everything is set up using the instructions found on the can.  It is not tricky at all:)  Here is one batch.  It makes quite a bit.  Do note, you must use grease free untensils, bowls, and pastry bags.  This means metal, glass, or never used plastic.  This is why I use the disposable pastry bags, as all frosting is is grease!  The toppers won't set properly if there is grease!

To color it, I put about 2 large spoonfuls in a small glass bowl, added a toothpick full of my desired color, and stirred with a spoon.  I usually am not afraid of adding a lot more color than that to frostings (I add spoonfuls instead...I like VIBRANT colors!), but you are working with such small amounts that usually a toothpick is all you need with colorflow.  If you didn't get enough color with the first toothpick, get a new one and add some more.  Do not use toothpicks with sugar (leftover colorflow) on them, as they will ruin your gel colors.  Another bit of advice I would give, if you do not do this kind of stuff often, is just get the primary colors.  If you are good at mixing, you can make just about any color you want with just yellow, red, and blue (and maybe black and brown, just to simplify the process.)  A little bit of colorflow will make quite a few of these little toppers.  Make sure you cover the colorflow that is not being used with a damp cloth, as it dries quickly.

I like to put my pastry bag in a cup, as shown below, to fill it.  I like to keep it clean!

Twist the top of the bag and hold the bag in your palm as show below.  This just came naturally to me, but it doesn't to everyone, so I thought I'd share ;)  Cut a very very small portion of the tip of the bag to release the color flow.  You can always make the hole bigger, but it's hard to make it smaller!

Color away!  I'm sure there is a proper order to do the colors and tracing/filling.  However, I generally just do the color progression that would require the least amount of dishes!  I started with white.  Then made yellow in the same bowl.  Then I did green, because I wanted a yellowish-green.  It worked for me.  Every design is different, so it may be different for what you are doing.  If you are filling a space, first outline it, and then fill it.  It all just "flows" together.

When I'm done with a color, I twist the top and bottom of the pastry bag, as shown below, and stick it in a sandwich sized ziploc bag with a wet paper towel in it, just in case!

Let the cupcake toppers dry in a place that doesn't get much light, as light and UV rays can alter some colors and cause them to fade.  I keep them in a spare bedroom with the shades and curtains closed.  You can make them well in advance.  The Wilton website says they should last indefinitely if stored properly...though I would feel weird serving it if it were too old.

Aren't they cute!

They look so much more exciting with bright, colorful frosting and fun cupcake liners!  This is why it is okay to go with the simple designs, or fewer designs, to save lots of time!  You can also embellish with frosting, like I did with orange frosting on the rockets and planets.  I felt it needed some warmer colors to balance the red on the big cake.  It adds a bit of pizzazz!

So there you have it!

If you would like more info, visit  They have all the information you might need on colorflow, as well as tons of other great cake decorating tips!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spicy Chicken Dip

My aunt brought this spicy chicken dip to my sister's bridal shower.  It was so wonderful, that I asked for the recipe.  Now, everytime I make it, at least one person asks for the recipe.  Yes, folks, it's that good.  The recipe is kind of vague.  I didn't realize how vague it was until I had some high school students make it in my FACS class while I was teaching.  Because of this, I'll share a few things I like to do when making this recipe to help you out.  (P.S.  I always make a double batch if there are more than 6 or so people.  It generally disappears quickly...and if it doesn't, the leftovers never last long at my house!)

Spicy Chicken Dip
2 chicken breast ( grilled or sauteed in pan with olive oil, Mexican Spice and garlic.)  When I make it, I just use a packet of taco seasoning per batch.  I put the seasoning and the chicken in a gallon ziploc bag and shake it, shake-and-bake style.  I then cook it, covered, on medium high heat.  The seasoning tends to burn before the chicken is done in the middle if I don't cover it.

Cool the chicken and tear or cut into small pieces.  I found a way to shred it when it's hot...I don't like waiting:)  Make sure the pieces are small.  It is a dip, after all.  I made it for my cousin's baby shower, and was in a hurry, so I didn't make the pieces as small as they should have been.  It was more like an entre'.  Luckily, people still gobbled it up!

Mix together:

½ c. milk
½ c. mayo
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature) Just microwave's all going to be heated anyways.  Also, I bet you can use fat-free or low-fat everything.  The other ingredients are so flavorful.
½ to a whole diced red pepper  I used yellow last time.  It tasted the same, but didn't look as appetizing:)
jalepenos to taste

Add all together.  Bake in casserole dish at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.  I'm not going to lie.  I always just microwave it until it's hot.  I'm pretty sure it would be perfect in a crock pot too. 

Serve it with tortilla chips, wheat thins, doritos...I sometimes eat it plain...


Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekend 4- Complete Craziness!

This week was full of unexpected good times!  If you recall from my last post, my mom visited me for a week.  Since she left things have just been crazy!  I had 3 friends unexpectedly visit Springfield from out of town!  THREE!  It's kind of a weird thing that never fails to happen.  My friends from college (who do not necessarily talk to each other) always show up in the same week.  Like...the past 4 times I have seen them.  It's ridiculous!

Despite all of my visitors, Wes and I got a lot accomplished on the house and in life.  (There are some important and exciting things in our future!  Don't worry.  I'll share!)

Let's start with the house.

I finished one more vanity.  I really hoped to finish them all this week, but that didn't even come close to happening!  I was way too busy having fun!

Wes built some headers, did some plumbing, and knocked down walls and the arched ceiling in the master bathroom.  We have an amazing plan for this room!  I am so excited about it!

Here's what it looked like with walls...

It's a bit drafty in there right because there is no ceiling.  You can see all the way through the attic, to the roof!  (The picture below was taken from  the shower area looking into the master bedroom.)  Notice the arched drywall.  It will be so much more open feeling without the wall and the higher ceilings!!!

I debated on whether or not I even wanted to add the next picture for two reasons.  1.  I wasn't supposed to do this until our house was finished (but it was so stinkin nice outside!!!) and 2.  It was a total disaster.  I painted the doghouse.  It did not turn out quite like I imagined.  I'm hoping it looks happier on a sunny day.  In the future, I'd like to add some more white trim around the edges, a cute sign that says "Dixie," and maybe some planters around it...or terra cotta pots with cutsie little flowers.  I told Wes I think it looks trashy.  He agreed and dissed my color.  I'm convinced it's a good color, so I blamed his unfinished dog house:)  I am now totally set on making this doghouse super cute without repainting it.  Wes said I'm prideful and that we should just re-paint it.  It's totally true...I'm prideful.  It will look cute in the future.  Mark my words!  If you have any ideas, please share.  Like I said, I'm determined :)

I'm sad...I might like the before better...

Two lovely ladies from youth group have been visiting me and creating an AMAZING piece of art for our mantel.  I found a piece online that was EXACTLY what I wanted...but it was super expensive.  I knew these girls are very artistic, so I showed them the painting.  They said they thought they could recreate it...and have they ever!  This is just a sneak peak of the work in progress.  I'll share how we did it and the final results later!  We have one more work day before it's complete:)

In other exciting news, we are getting a foreign exchange student for the fall semester next year!!  We had an interview on Thursday evening, and got the last bit of our information in today.  Most people think we are crazy, and question why we are doing it now, but Wes and I are extremely pumped about it.  Many of you probably know that I LOVE when people stay with us.  We feel we are in a great season of our life to be able to really pour into our student and give him a great international experience!  We are praying that we all get along, and that it is an enjoyable experience.  We are also praying that we all learn and grow from it!  If you want to shoot up a little prayer for us, that would be awesome.

We are already planning some trips we hope to take the kid on.  Today I met with my friend, Karson, and began planning our trip to Montana.  We had this trip planned before we decided to get a student, but we are thrilled that there is a chance he will be able to come.  We are going to fit a ton in the week and a couple of days that we are planning.  It is going to be crazy and amazing!  A few of the things we have planned are Glacier National Park, Yellowstone Park, Mt. Rushmore, Canada, as well as stopping and doing a little sight seeing in Denver, CO and Sioux Falls, SD.  I can hardly wait!  I heard all of those places are so breathtaking!

Speaking of breathtaking...spring favorite.  I'm pretty sure I see some daffodils sprouting up in my yard.  My mom planted them last summer, so I haven't seen them bloom yet!  I think it's time I planted those tulips I didn't plant last fall.  I read that if they are chilled they can be planted in very early spring.  They have been chilled, and they are starting to sprout in the bag!  I hope they do well, as I am using them to help "stage" our house for spring.  If you have any advice on that, do share!

Hope you have been enjoying the warmer weather!  (Please be gone for good, winter!!!)


Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekend 3

First of all, it is Valentine's day, so I just wouldn't feel right if I didn't say something about my precious man friend...

 He is wonderful, and I love him very dearly...

And he is super manly, talented, and smart.  He completed this bathroom like he completes me.  This 1/2 is now a whole:)

I try to make him smile like he makes me smile.  Yes...that is a Forrest Gump themed Valentine's gift.  I'm lame, but it's the only idea I had.

Basically, he's wonderful.  God has really, really blessed me:)

This weekend  update is a little late, and for that, I apologize.  My mom visited me from Wednesday, and is leaving in the morning.  Guess what she did.  That's right.  Finished the wallpaper project.  What a saint, she is!  Haha!  She also painted the inside of the vanities in the basement.  Basically, she did the crappiest jobs ever (and even got sick from the fumes in the process:( ).  She didn't complain once.  I'm so thankful to have a mom like her.  While she did those terrible tasks, I began the refinishing process on the vanities in the basement.  I only finished one, and the before and after pictures are below.  The other 2 vanities are in various stages of the process.  I stripped the finish, sanded, stained, glazed, and polyurethaned them.  I can't decide if I love them or not.  The grain is so heavy, and the cabinet isn't as dark as I hoped it would be, even after 3 applications of stain.  I think I will barely have enough stain to finish the vanities upstairs, so I might get a darker stain for them.  I visited Sherwin-Williams the other day (after I had already started staining the basement cabinets), and saw they had a much better selection of stains than Lowes.  They also gave advice that contradicted what the Lowes people told me...and it worked.  I think I am going to visit them more often!  I used the glaze over the stain, after it was dry, of course.  I love that it adds depth and a richness to the cabinets!  Maybe all the ugliness around the cabinet is distracting me:)  We'll see how I feel about them when the walls no longer look like purple sandpaper, and they nasty carpet is replaced with travertine:)

I apologize for the bluish tint.   This vanity was a beat up version of the typical, orangy oak cabinets found in lots of homes.

That's basically all we did this weekend.  This house is going to be a slow project, but I'm still thoroughly enjoying it:)  I'm so glad I am, as we've only owned it for 2 1/2 weeks!  Ha!

Hope your Valentine's Day was full of love!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wide Open Spaces- Weekend 2

At this point, I'm thinking the only person who would be interested in these house update posts is my future self.  Nothing is beautiful just yet.  Actually, things look much more chaotic with our mess and all of the "construction" going on.  Someday I will get to the pretty/fun/diy stuff.  Hopefully sooner than later!

If I am mistaken, and you are interested in our progress, read on! 

This weekend was filled with knocking down walls and, you'll never guess what else.  That's right...removing wallpaper.  These two very different things have had a similar effect on our house;  they make it feel much more open!

Wes (with a bunch of help from his brother, Eric) expanded the opening in the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

This is the lovely open view from the formal dining room.  So open!!!

The view from the kitchen to the living room.

I haven't added a picture of the wall that he knocked down.  I just found this one on my computer.  It was the wall with the 3 windows in it.  The windows had etched glass.  So 80s:)  Glad we were able to bring it up to date!!  We were so shocked it wasn't a load bearing wall...and so glad!  We love the results.  Notice the wall paper in the room to the right?

It's gone!  so much better!

Wes also started the process of making our half bathroom a full bathroom.  He'll add the tub next week:)  Also, he did a lot of demolition in the master bathroom.  He's such a stud!
I haven't yet finished the removing of wallpaper.  I'm not going to this week.  I'm going to do some other, more exciting projects because I am definitely becoming a whiner!  It's not good.  Refinishing bathroom vanities and spray painting things sounds like much more fun!!!  Can't wait!  Oohhh!!!  Plus, I have a friend coming over to refinish some furiniture in our crazy, dust filled house.  I'm so excited! 

In other news, my past shopping trips have been very successful!  I've gotten a few things that I've been wanting for a while!

My first mercury glass...thing.  It's a tea light holder, and was on clearance at TJ Maxx!  I LOOOOVE that place!!!  It reminds me of a pineapple, which is a symbol of hospitality.  Just one more reason to love it!  Oh!  And this was the first picture I used custom white balance on my camera!  I'm so proud of myself! :)  Still frustrated with my photographyness, though.  My computer still shuts down if I play with the pictures too much, so all of my shots recently have been 100% un-edited.) 

I got this ceramic deer at a thrift store.  It had a nasty christmas bow and some plastic holly glued to it.  I just ripped it off and was left with this beauty!  Can't wait to find it a home at the new house!

I've been needing a jewelry organizer for a while now.  Though it was not cheap by my standards, it was much needed, so worth it! 
  So there you have it.  Another random updates post by Michelle.

Now I'm going to bed. :)

Stay warm!

Good Night!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wallpaper Makes Me Crazy

I laughed harder today than I have in a really long time.  I couldn't stop.  There were tears running down my face.  My mouth was full of delicious El Puente food...and I couldn't swallow it.  I started to drool.  My nostrils were flaring.  (This is why I cover my face when I laugh really really hard.  I bet you didn't know that, did you? Ha!)


No particular reason....nothing out of the ordinary.  My husband was being a small bit goofy.  The kind of goofy I usually roll my eyes at.  The kind of goofy that deserves a sympathy chuckle.

I blame the wallpaper...

The wallpaper that has consumed my entire week.  The wallpaper that is as temperamental as a pimple faced, PMSing, teenage chick.  The wallpaper that prevents me from getting in my daily quota of giggles.

Don't worry.  I got the giggles out today.  At lunch.  In public.

On a positive note:  it gave my husband a huge ego boost.  He probably thinks he's the funniest thing alive now:)

Actually.  That's a lie.  He kept asking what my issue was.