January 18, 2011

This might be my favorite cake

For my nephew's 5th birthday party, my sister and I made him a cake.  Gavin wanted Cat in the Hat, so we delivered.  The cake turned out so great!  This was the first cake we've ever decorated with an airbrush set.  I felt like I was on Cake Boss.  :-)

Using the airbrush was easy.  The colors went on fairly even and, for the red stripes anyway, spraying the color was more effective than mixing red food coloring into fondant and cutting out the stripes.  We used ribbon to "tape off" the stripes and then outlined them with a black food color marker.

Gavin's party was at the Olympic Fun Center in Hermitage, PA.  It's similar to a Chuck E. Cheese because it has arcade games and a play area, but it also has a laser tag area, a roller rink and party rooms.  The party rooms must have been painted in the late 80s or early 90s because they are all bright yellow, orange and green.  It's a little wild as far as decor goes, but the colors made a fun, colorful backdrop for the cake.

The cake was very tall.  I think it was over two feet high.  It was also very heavy.  Cake weighs a lot!

And, what would a birthday party post be without a picture of the birthday boy?

 Gavin & Pokey

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

January 12, 2011

Something to Stare at When Staring at the Wall

While we do have some artwork and prints on the walls, we also haveve a few bare walls throughout our home.  Most of our artwork has been obtained from Goodwill stores, yard sales and auctions.  We also have a few wedding photos framed and hung in a few different rooms.  I have lots more wedding photos I would love to use, but let's face it, we don't need a million photos of us hanging up everywhere.

I found out on Dealnews.com (best site for bargains--check it out!) that AllPosters.com is having their semi-anual clearance sale with up to 75% off select items.  They have lots of art prints on sale in addition to posters.  I'm thinking of ordering a few prints for our various bare spots in our house.  Shipping is free with a $14.99 or more purchase, so it's a good deal all around. 

Here are some I'm thinking about:

This one would look nice in the office or event the bathroom.

I think this could work in our living room or maybe even our bedroom.

This would be a nice image to stare at while I'm crafting in the office.

And, I really think this would work well in our bedroom.


So, check out the sale if your looking for some new art.  With the low prices, you could pick up some thrift store frames and have some very inexpensive, great-looking art for any room in your house.

January 9, 2011

A special birthday cake

My husband's birthday is a few days before Christmas.  Because of the holidays and the last minute shopping, wrapping and cookie baking, it's the unfortunate truth the his birthday isn't always celebrated to the extent it should be (I'm a bad wife, I know!)  I wanted to turn that around this year.  He deserved a proper birthday and I was set on delivering.

For starters, I let him pick the restaurant for a birthday dinner.  He chose a high-recommended steak house on Pittsburgh's North Shore, so I made the reservation.  Dinner was amazing!  We both loved our meals (filet mignon and crab cakes) and the restaurant had a great atmosphere.

For another part of his birthday celebration, I decided to make him a cake.  I always feel bad that I make other people cakes, but have yet to make a fun birthday cake for him.  I asked him what he wanted (something simple--white cake, coconut filling, buttercream, no fondant and Pitt) and got to work.  Here is the end result:

I thought the Pitt logo in the school colors would be perfect.  He really liked how the cake looked, but I think he liked how it tasted even better.
If you want to try the coconut cream cheese filling, here's my recipe.  This has quickly become a favorite for cakes I'm making for family and friends.  It is so good!

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting/Filling


  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixer bowl until fluffy. 
  2. Add the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, alternating with heavy cream. 
  3. Beat in the salt, coconut flavoring and vanilla. 
  4. Beating until mixture is smooth. 
  5. Add additional confectioners' sugar if necessary to thicken the frosting, or more cream to thin.

January 3, 2011

Time to pick up the sticks

I know a couple of ladies who will be having babies in the next few months.  My go-to gift has become knitted baby blankets.  I just bought some yarn and I'm anxious to start on my favorite blanket pattern.  The next blanket I'll be making is for a boy.  After using a non-traditional tweedy yarn in a taupe color for a recent baby girl blanket, I really think stepping outside of the pastel pink, blues, yellows and greens makes for a unique, heirloom-quality piece. 

The mom-to-be mentioned her nursery theme and said there were different shades of blue in the palette.  When I was out shopping at Pat Catan's, I came a cross this yarn in a really mutted shade of blue.

I really like the color and the feel of this yarn.  I really think the color will transition well from infant age through the terrible two's and beyond.

So, now I just have to locate my #9 circulars and get started.  I think her due date is in April, so the shower has to be right around the corner.

January 2, 2011


Merry Christmas to me!  One of my Christmas presents from my husband was a the iPhone 4.  I thought I needed to upgrade my 3G, but didn't want to do it around the holidays.  Spending the extra money this time of year just didn't make sense.  I didn't ask for an upgrade, but Chris is pretty awesome for picking this up for me.  He was super sneaky and wrapped it in an alarm clock box, which I also asked for.  I was very surprised.


I am in love with the retina display, 5-megapixel camera (which should improve some of my on-the-fly shots I take for the blog), and the HD video capabilities.  And, Angry Birds is so much better on the iPhone 4!

January 1, 2011

A Clean Slate

2011.  It's really hard to think that 2010 is already over.  While the past year brought many wonderful moments, there were also some less-than stellar experiences.

I may have appeared to be absent from blogging for the last few months, but I remained active in my writing.  After some work and health-related issues caused me to feel defeated and withdrawn, and probably slightly depressed, I discovered the beauty of making blog posts "private" from the eyes of the world.  In a way, I felt guilty for keeping things to myself.  I know there are people, either those who already read or may potentially stumble across this blog, who might relate or be a sounding board for advice and opinions on my struggles, but I also felt that enlisting privacy on my writing gave me a personal therapy release that was more important to my mental well-being.

I've thought about making those posts public, but ultimately feel that keeping them to myself is what would be best for me.  I'm ready to move on from the places my blogging has taken me, so I'm starting 2011 with a clean slate.

I'm not one to make resolutions with the new year.  I like to think of myself as a goal-oriented person.  To me, making a resolution is deciding to make a change.  When you resolve to do something, you change your direction.  When you set a goal, it's deciding to work towards something that will improve your current state.  I think the reason most people fail at their resolutions is because it's hard to change and there is a lot of self-pressure, which can make a resolution quickly turn into a negative.  The good thing about a goal is that they don't have to be finite--you can work towards a goal throughout your entire life.  It doesn't really matter when you meet your goals, just that you see them through.  And, when you set a goal for yourself, you give yourself something to look forward to and it gives you hope.

With my clean slate, I'm going to set some new goals for myself.  Because sharing them keeps me accountable, here are my goals (which are not necessarily goals for the year):

1.  Organize.  I'm not a terribly unorganized person, but I could use some improvement in this area.  Mostly, I would like to organize my craft room/office and our basement.  We've done a good job of keeping a clutter-free house with the exception of those two areas.

2.  Start grad school.  I've always wanted to get my Master's degree and I think next summer or fall would be the time to get to it.  I'm leaning towards taking online courses through the school my husband works for (can you say tuition discount?!?) because I want the flexibility, but I'm also worried that I won't have the discipline.  When I start, I'll probably just start out with one class and see how it goes.

3.  Catch up at work.  The quick and dirty of my work situation is that the company where I worked since college, all seven years of my professional career, closed it's doors on September 30th.   Fortunately, I was able to find a job immediately and was only off work for a week.  There are some aspects of my new job that are foreign territory for me, but I am trying to learn as fast as I can.  The learning curve, along with the to-do list that was waiting for me at the start, has left me to feel like I'm on the defense with my projects.  I want to get to a place where I feel caught up so I can approach my job from more of an offensive perspective.  I think I'll be most effective once I get to that place.

4.  Try new recipes.  I'm always trying new recipes, so I guess this isn't a new goal.  I do, however, want to do a better job of documenting my cooking because I'm always tweaking recipes.  I've always wanted to make a personal cookbook through Blurb or MyPublisher, so I'd have all of my favorite recipes all in one place in a nice, bound book with pictures and notes.

5. Create opportunities to be creative.  I need to make more room in my life for my creative outlets.  Whether it's knitting, scrapbooking, cake decorating, home decorating, writing, singing, sewing or photography, I want to continue to be creative and improve on my skills.  I want to push myself to learn more and to try new things.

6.  Put more into my blog.  I'd love to update the content more often.  I'd love to maybe start a blog just for all of the things I wrote about on private settings.  I'd love to get a blog design makeover.  Oh, and I'd love to finish blogging out our wedding--which can happen now that I got the rest of my photos from my photographer when I picked up my album last week.  I'd also like to be more interactive on other blogs.  I think I follow some great bloggers and I would like to make my presence on their sites a little more known by being a more active commenter.

7.  Read books.  I have a lot of books laying around just waiting to be read.  I pick most of them up at yard sales and thrift stores, so I get them pretty cheap.  Not paying much for them makes me want to buy more and leaves me with no sense of urgency to read them.  I got my husband a Kindle for Christmas.  He really likes it and, no surprise, I like it, too!  I think I want one, but I need to read more to justify it.

So, that's it.  These are the goals I'm putting on my plate, sans deadlines.  But, here's hoping at least some of them can be achieved in 2011.


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