Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sweet Valentine Memories....

I have to say upfront, that this is a bit of an embarrassing post.  I am in my mid-sixties (yes that is enough of an admission) - but wait - there's more.  Can you believe I have never ever - NEVER EVER - piped frosting?!?  I know - what have I been waiting for???  I totally admit that this first attempt is not a work of art - the pictures say it all.  But it was a labor of love and honestly, it was really fun.  Will I do it again??  Yep - because I clearly need to practice - and my efforts made two little boys VERY happy = huge payoff!

I was feeling guilty that I had not made Valentine cards this year - not sure why, but just  had no inspiration.  But I didn't want the day to go by and not do anything for Carter.  Plus, my neighbor's little grandson who is 2 years old, was spending Valentine's Day with them, so I had double motivation to bake something yummy.  And this recipe was just perfect for two adorable little boys.


from Sally's Baking Addiction            

3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use King Arthur Triple Cocoa Blend)
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 c. natural cane sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/3 c. oil (I use Spectrum canola and coconut oil blend)
2 t. pure vanilla extract (I like Mexican vanilla when making a chocolate recipe)
1/2 c. buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350.  This makes 14 cupcakes, so line a muffin tin with paper liners and put two liners in a second tin.  Set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well combined.  In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, sugars, oil and vanilla together and whisk until smooth and thoroughly combined.  Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients..  Then add half of the buttermilk.  Whisk gently for a few seconds.  Repeat with the remaining wet ingredients and buttermilk.  Stir until just combined; do NOT overmix.  The batter will be thin.

I used a small ice cream scoop to fill the liners halfway.  It is important to only fill them halfway to prevent the batter from spilling over the sides or sinking.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow them to cool completely before frosting.

These cupcakes can be made a day in advance.  Keep them at room temperature and cover tightly.  They can also be frozen (unfrosted) for up to two months.  Thaw overnight in the fridge and bring to room temperature before frosting.

 (also from Sally's Baking  Addiction)

This makes about 3 cups of frosting and is perfect for frosting these chocolate cupcakes.  YUM!

1 c. (12 g) freeze dried strawberries
1 c. (235 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 c. (480 g) powdered sugar
3 T. (45 ml) whole milk
1 t. Tahitian vanilla extract (Tahitian vanilla is great with fruit recipes, but any vanilla is fine)
salt, to taste, if needed

Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze dried strawberries until they become a fine powder.  There should be about 1/2 c. of the powdery strawberries.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium high speed with a stand mixer until it is creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar, strawberry powder, milk and vanilla.  Beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, and beat on high speed for two minutes.  Taste the frosting and add a pinch of salt if it seems too sweet.    (the frosting will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator; store in covered container).

This frosting is soooooooooo good and I love that the light pink color is from the freeze dried strawberries - no artificial coloring at all.


Chocolate and strawberries - a perfect duo!

Mmm....Mmm...Good!  Frosting first - always!

I delivered a plate of cupcakes to Carter the day after Valentine's Day (luckily he is too young to realize Grammy was late!) and I heard that they were used as bribery (I mean rewards) for the rest of the week!!  Multi-purpose cupcakes - even better!

If you have not jumped on the cupcake and piped frosting bandwagon yet - you really must. If I can do it - or at least attempt to do it - so can you!


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Friday, February 23, 2018

January - A Time to Celebrate and Remember...

Usually, when January rolls around each year, it marks the beginning of a new year and provides a sort of reset, if needed, to begin anew.  But this January was like no other and I am already in need of a reset.

Early in the month,  I celebrated the birthday of a special friend, and had fun making this card.

It is difficult to capture the foil, but what appears black is actually purple and silver foil! 
(The stripes are silver foil and the design in the background and front are purple foil).
All designs are Gina K Foil Mates

This captures the color of the foil a bit better.

Birthdays are wonderful reminders that not only is every year worth celebrating, but each and every day.  That awareness was stronger than ever last month.  Unfortunately, it was necessary to create two sympathy cards as well.  The first one went to a dear friend who lost her wonderful mother after months of illness .  It has been 16 years since I lost my Mother, and I still miss her.  Losing a parent is life changing.  It is part of the cycle, but knowing that does not make the loss easier or more profound.  I hope this card brought her some comfort.

This design was traced from a stencil and cut with the Silver Bullet Pro. 
I love the simplicity of it.

The second sympathy card (below) was the most difficult card I have ever made.  I was full of so many emotions - sadness, anger, disbelief .. and so much more.  I have talked before about my daughter in law's sister, Darcy, who was battling cancer.  In September, Darcy returned to work while still fighting this awful disease.  We were all so hopeful that progress was being made. Unfortunately, the progress was fleeting and the cancer was victorious in the end.  I ached for Scott and Megan and all of the family suffering this incredible loss.  Ours is not to question, but acceptance is certainly not easy.

Before Darcy passed, she asked Megan to tell her daughter, Riley, and her nephew, Carter (my grandson), to know that she was watching over them whenever they saw a ladybug.  So it was clear to me that my card for Megan and her family had to have a ladybug.  I am not an artist, but I can say that this little ladybug was made with love.

The little lady bug was made with Nuvo Drops and the
beautiful rose is a design from Dominic (Crafty  Vectors). 

The end of January marked a celebration of Darcy' life and a lasting reminder that each and every day of our lives is a precious gift, not to be wasted or taken for granted. Pin It Now!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

It's a New Year - a little ...ummmm... LOT belated!!

It is hard to get back into blogging when months have gone by.  I feel like there is so much to share because I wanted to at the time, but life, as it does, got in the way in a variety of ways.  I was reminded time and time again, that my plan or priorities, were not God's plan for me.  So I tried not to fight that battle and worked on letting go.  Sometimes life can feel like a fairly smooth drive from one point to the other with just a few bumps and curves on the road - not too hard to manage.  And then other times, the journey is much more challenging with steeper hills, unexpected detours, even black ice on the road where you have NO idea where you are going and you have to trust.  There have been a lot of detour-filled roads lately on this life path and I am learning to slow down and do my best to navigate them in a more thoughtful and safe way.  Not sure any of this makes sense, but over the next few weeks I will share a little of what some of the challenges have been.

What I continue to learn is that I cannot do anything without family, friends and God. One thing constant about life is change and adapting to that can be difficult.  But all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and move forward....not back.  That is not always easy, but oh so necessary.  And the steps don't have to be at warp speed!  Sometimes just taking a few steps forward is enough because that is all I can handle. And other days, I feel like I can cover miles.  So I try to judge less and accomplish whatever I can and be satisfied with that.  Another tough lesson - how do I be satisfied with less when I want to accomplish soooo much more?!?  It is all ok because if I am doing my best, then that is all I can do and my best is enough.  One of the many mantras running through my head these days.  So whether it is baby steps or giant leaps, it is all just fine.

So onward we go.  Let's close this post out with a few of last year's cards that I made for gifts at Christmas time.  They are basically "money" cards for the people in my life who make things easier for me - from the mailman to the nail lady and house cleaner.  These were fun to make and since I am not crazy about recreating the same card over and over, these all have the same theme, but are a little different from each other. And the recipients were happy to receive them.  Mission accomplished! Enjoy.

And I hope you will stay with me on this year's  blog.  I plan to do lots of cards, more baking (and more variety), some new cooking techniques (like sous vide - so much fun and so delicious), and some new crafts too if I can carve out the time. There are always new things I want to learn, and I am hoping I will be able to have some success and share new ideas with you too.

Thanks for reading!

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