Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mother's day is coming up... are you prepared?

 Ah mother's day.  It's coming fast people!  My sis in law and I decided to start a tradition a few years ago, of gathering our hoodlums together and doing a little photo shoot, then giving the pictures to my mama.  This year we decided to coordinate our girls.  Both in mint jeans, brown boots and gray tops.  So fun.  We spent about seven minutes doing this because my niece is two and does the most adorable cheese face smile then she's done and ready to run. 

I remember the days.  Ha!  We worked fast and I think my mama liked them.  This top picture was my fave because they are all laughing and my niece is throwing her head back.  Just hysterical. 
 We gave her a dandelion to distract her and this shot was accidental.  Sometimes those are the best kinds.  You should have seen me instructing Joe and Ava "Smile no matter what and just keep smiling until I tell you to stop!"  They were good sports and they adore this baby niece of theirs.  Sometimes my heart bursts watching them with their little cousins. They are so tender and sweet, always quick to give piggy back rides and play chase. 

 Yeah, Joe thinks she's pretty special.  You can see it written all over his face.  I love this shot of him and it's coming out at his wedding some day.  (Will probably embarrass both of them! Ha!)
 The cheese face. I think she was even saying, "cheeeezze!"  Seriously is this not the best?! You work with what you've got and that's how you get the shots you love.
 Then she ran off for a minute to get a bite of bribery candy and Joe pretended to be over the whole thing. That kid cracks me up!
One final shot before we were done.  I can't wait to see a big stack of these mother's day photos someday and see how all of our kiddos have grown up. 
If you need a great idea for Mother's day-(or for yourself for mother's day- or just whenever) look no further than Lisa Leonard's shop!  She has got the most darling items in stock.  This one is my favorite.  A mother's unbreakable heart. (I think this one spoke to me as we have been going through a particularly rough patch with one of my darlings lately and I'm realizing exactly what unconditional love really is. It is a beautiful thing, and makes me so grateful for the unconditional love of God the Father.  Doesn't motherhood teach you so much about God's love for us?  So thankful...)

If you would like to grab something from Lisa's shop, she is offering all of you sweet readers of mine a coupon code good for a 20% discount in her shop!  Isn't that the best?!  I love her heart so much and she is so encouraging and generous.  She is just a dear lady and her story as a mama inspires me constantly and I LOVE supporting her in her business.  This coupon is good until May 7th so don't dally!  Use "sunshine" when you place your orders here, to use this offer.  
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The beauty of a simply imperfect rainbow cake.

I am officially done.  Okay that's not true.  I will be officially done on Saturday morning, because I had to move Ava's birthday slumber party to next weekend because Ava's BFF couldn't make it this weekend. (Whaaaa I want my mommy.  Will this birthday madness never end?) (Pray for me.) (Just kidding. It's mostly fun.) (But I am NOT baking another cake, I can tell you that right now.)
Speaking of cake.

I've got some very strong feelings about this one.  I am passionately in love with rainbow cake.  Passionately, I tell you.  I believe that every home should have a rainbow cake at least once a year.  It should be a rule.

I also believe that the reason I feel so strongly about this, is that you can not mess this cake up.  Trust me, I've tried. You can have too few pans, skimpy batter, food coloring issues, you name it, but it comes out alright in the end and it's so forgiving since you don't have to frost the outsides and make it perfect.  The perfection of this cake is it's wonky imperfection.  People, I can't tell you how freeing that is.

Henceforth, I shall find an excuse to bake this once a year.


 I promised my Instagram peeps that I'd share some tips so that they too, could bask in the glow of a bright rainbow cake on their counter tops.  To say this is a tutorial, is probably a gross exaggeration.  It's more of a list of basic tips for how I do this, and I hope it helps you bake a rainbow cake too!
*I begin with six bowls, all the same size and a two layer cake recipe. (Any recipe or box mix will work as long as it's for a two layer cake.  Double check that before you start.) Prepare as directed.

*I have 4 eight inch pans but someday I need to grab two more.  I begin by taking one, and setting it on a stack of 6 pieces of parchment paper.  I trace a circle around the pan and then I cut all six out at once so I can line all my pans with parchment.  I do this because the cake is very thin and this helps.  Once those are cut I line up my four pans, spray them heavily with Pam cooking spray, lay the parchment circles in the bottom and spray that.  I flour all my pans lightly. (I use cup for cup GF flour but any kind would work.)

*Next I take my batter and divide it evenly among all six bowls.  There won't be much batter in them.

*I use red, yellow, green, blue and purple food colorings and mix orange from the food coloring box guide. I mix each bowl until the colors are bright and vibrant.  Make them darker than you think they need to be and you'll be fine.

*Gently begin spreading your batter.  Because it's a small amount you will need to go slow, take your time and work it around until it's edge to edge.  I always have a moment of panic because it never looks like there will be enough batter to cover the whole pan!  (I use a spatula to get every single scrap of batter out of the bowl.) Once its all spread, I tap the cake pan on the counter and work air bubbles out and then I put all four pans into the oven at once (reserving the final two colors until two more pans are free.) I bake them for about 13-15 min- until a knife in the center comes out clean.  I let them sit 10 minutes and then flip them onto a piece of parchment.  (I quickly wash and prepare two more pans and get the final two cake colors into the oven.)

*Once all the cake layers are cool, I mix up the following frosting recipe and you will use the entire batch.  If you want to be precise you can always divide it up into six equal portions but I just eyeball it and make a nice frosting layer between each layer, about a half inch thick.  This whole process is actually very quick and easy and suddenly you've got a gorgeous cake with very little effort. I like that.

Fluffy Cake Frosting:
*Beat 4 1/2 sticks room-temperature butter and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar until pale and fluffy.  Gradually add an additional 5 1/4 cups powdered sugar.  Add 1 1/2 tbsp milk and 1 tsp real vanilla extract.  Beat until pale and fluffy.

 I used the tutorial here for the rainbow tissue garland and the chalk garland came from my buddy Jen.

 Now, let's talk party accessories.  My friend Ashley sent me a party box and if you also need a party box, she is your girl.  She sent me rainbow colored stripey straws, (which we all know I'm totally addicted to) chevron gift bags (above, that we filled with starburst candies and a pretty polishes for the slumber party girls) wood spoons, mason jar daisy cut straw lids (for drinking shirley temples of course) and the gorgeous huge sprinkles you see on the top of the cake which happen to be my favorites.  Ashely is such a sweetheart and owns my new favorite party supply store.  She has a ton more cute party items in her shop which you should definitely go check out and she is soon to be expanding and adding a bunch of really fun NEW party items!! I can't wait to see what she stocks!

We made rainbow party popcorn (simple, quick and inexpensive) for the slumber party movie, and I reserved some in goody bags to send the girls home with so they can remember the fun night.  We laid popcorn out on cookies sheets and then used colored candy melts to drizzle over the top along with some funfetti sprinkles.  You know, for a bit of extra fun. 

The credit for how darling this party came out goes to my friend Ashley and her inspirational shop and party goods.  I am so thankful for her items that helped me throw such a cheery event for my husband and Ava.   

And to sweeten your day, Ashely is offering you all 15% off any orders from  her shop if you use the coupon code "LEMONADE" when you check out!!  So run over there and stock up on all of your party and summer entertaining bits and bobs.  You will just love her.  

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Our Home. The story of our house.

I am working on getting a current and complete house tour on my Home Tour tab over the next couple of weeks, but I have just added the written story of our house, along with a few new photos of our finished sectional and some house random shots, and I thought it might be a fun way to wind down the week if you care to read. 
You can view the whole house tour up to this point, over on this page.  
Adrain and I moved into this, our little dream house, nearly eleven years ago, when our son was two and our daughter was two months old.  Before that, we'd lived on the outskirts of town, in a darkly wooded area.  Our home was surrounded by huge evergreens that never let any light inside, and was infested with gigantic wolf spiders. It also had two bedrooms, no garage and was about 900 square feet. Besides all that, it had moss for a yard and the steepest driveway known to man.  The upside, were  the deer that frequently ate all the plants I was trying to grow and when it snowed you had to park down the hill, about a mile away.  Oh wait, I guess that wasn't an upside after all.  It was incredibly cute inside, but with the darkness, spiders and lack of space for our growing family... well, it wasn't ideal.  

The issue was, we could afford that home.  I'll never forget the day Adrain drove me past the cutest yellow and white house.  I'd always wanted a yellow house.  I took one look at it and firmly decided it was not for us, because it was brand new, and I knew we could never afford the asking price and keep me staying home with our babies.  Adrain talked finances and crunched numbers and all the while, I sat there nursing our fussy baby who had terrible acid reflux, confident that we'd be stuck in the dark spider house for life. The market happened to be on fire, the rates were at a crazy low, and our home sold at asking price days later.  Miracle of miracles we were able to afford this beautiful new home that nobody had ever lived in before.  The walls were stark, "apartment white," the trim was ugly honey oak, the carpet was cheap builder grade, the fixtures were all brass, the houses on all sides were identical and tightly spaced, and there was no window looking out into the grass-less, fence-less backyard.  I loved every square inch of it.  

Over the years we have painted every single wall.  We've ripped out carpet and replaced it with Pergo.  We've added that window looking into the backyard, planted grass, a garden, a tree, done some affordable landscaping, added a small cement patio, installed a fence, closed off the front room with french doors, changed light fixtures, added knobs, painted the kitchen, added bead board, painted all the trim white, and basically made it ours in every way possible.  Things change a lot because we like change and are always open to moving a pillow or piece of artwork to a different room or working around a current season. 

It's normally pretty clean and organized because I like to clean and organize, and doing that is one of my strengths.  I don't apologize for it, but I sure don't want you to walk away feeling like you're not good enough because of it.  Sometimes there is laundry all over the table.  Sometimes the sink is bursting with dishes.  Sometimes there is a pink ring in my bathtub because I'm too lazy to clean it and that's okay.  I just probably won't photograph those things.  But believe me, they happen. We live here and this is real life.    

This home has never been perfect, but it's ideal.  It fits our family, at a snug 1500 square feet, and is luxurious by most of the world's standards, which isn't lost on us.  We have a bedroom for each of our growing children and we've buried a rabbit and a puppy in this house. We've got hand prints in our cement patio.  We've hosted a wedding, potty trained babies, had BBQ's and birthdays and holidays in this house.  We've packed dozens of friends around the kitchen table, the picnic table out back, and the campfire pit.  We've laughed long into the night with icy drinks in our hands in the Summer and built snowmen in the winter with neighbors.  We've harvested our own produce and served it up to family.  We've laughed, cried, danced and made life-long friends here.  

And in the end, isn't that the way you write the story of a house?  

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