Friday, February 15, 2013

Bake me a Cake: Advice Welcomed

One of my goals for this year is to be able to bake a cake, and I mean really bake a cake. I want this cake to be awesome and something I am proud to share. It needs to not only be delicious, it also has to be pretty. Oh, and somewhat easy to "whip up" would be nice too.

As background, I love cake. Wait, that wasn't a strong enough statement. I LOVE cake! And since I'm not good at baking cakes, I will just buy them or make cupcakes. Cupcakes are a great alternative to making cake, as they require so much less work, there is no stacking involved, and they come out of their little wrappers pretty easily.  Cakes require different skills, like the basic one of being able to get all the layers out of the pan without them falling apart so you can construct a cake. This is where I begin to fail.

STEP 1. Figure out how to consistently get layers out of their pans. To do this, I'm going the easy route and using boxed mix, since I'm guessing I will need a few more attempts to master this part.

My first attempt, was edible and looked fine with frosting on top (see picture), however, it was a mess underneath! It totally stuck to my greased and floured pan.

I was still able to salvage the layers and with a little finesse, I got them stacked with a filling of my homemade Chocolate Strawberry Jelly. I totally considered that part to be what made the cake special and not just cake from a box!

The sprinkles around the edge were also a new one for me, but so very easy!!! You just tilt the cake a little but and sprinkle over the sink.

My mom suggested using parchment paper and lining the bottom of the pan. I'm going to try that next.

Anyone else have suggestions?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Spray Paint Strikes, Again!

I have been working on my list of "Things to Spray Paint." It's mostly a mental list, but it's long. My husband laughs every time I add something else to the list of "things to be painted white." He's such a good guy that I think laughing is his way of accepting that he can't just throw the item away!

The red chandelier hanging from the Magnolia tree looks so wonderful, especially when the cardinals oblige by hanging out on the tree branches. Their splashes of red accents really spruce up the backyard!

While I was painting the chandelier, I was also working on this mirror.  Alternating between the white and red paint let one color dry while I painted the other object. Time management!

The mirror is one we had purchased for our old house. It hadn't found it's place at the new house, at least not in it's golden glory! Painting it white was really the only way to save it for our new space.

Here is what I did:

1. Rubbed the frame down with some steel wool, just to rough it up a bit and help the paint stick.
2. Wiped down the old mirror frame with a damp cloth to remove dust.

3. Taped paper over the mirror part. (My four-year old helped with this part, as you can tell. We couldn't find newspaper, and working with the 8.5" x 11" pieces of paper was easier than working with a garbage bag.)
4. Paint. I didn't try to get the paint on very thick with each coat. It was more of a light coat each time I sprayed it to help not have any drips.
5. Hung it on the wall.

What I learned:

1. Light coats of spray paint really are so much better to prevent drips.

2. If you see a drip, gently touch it quickly before it dries. It will kindof "heal" itself if you get it fast enough.

3. When going from a dark frame to a light color, consider applying caulk or filler to the joints before you paint. The corner joints of the mirror are much more noticeable now that it is painted white. This will eventually drive me crazy and I will take the mirror down and fill in the gaps, then repaint it.

4. Diligent taping= no scraping. Be sure you tape all the paper seams over the mirror, or you will have to scrape some paint off later.

5. Paint from different angles to get better coverage. If you start from the right on the first coat, start from the left on the second. You will see things you missed the first time.

Happy Creating!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Our Week in Pics

CAUTION: These are real pics of our world. All messes are real. We are still unpacking some boxes, and are finally starting to hang some things on the wall. Please excuse our dust. :) 

Our daughter acquired a new princess dress, that I think she wore for about 36 hours last weekend. Her brother couldn't let her have a pic alone. 
Treasure found in one of those boxes. That's the "Right Stuff," baby! One of my new year's goals is to be able to get these types of things (the ones we can't even use anymore because we no longer own a tape deck) out of our house, but probably won't get rid of this one!
Painted the baby's room and put the crib together. EEK!!!

Had some work done on the new yard, removing some unhealthy trees. This was quite entertaining and even a little sad at times. 

Refreshed some old pillows marking my reunion with my sewing machines. 

Went to my son's Teddy Bear Picnic at school! He opted to bring his favorite cuddle- Mickey!

Our daughter celebrated her 100th day of school! Such a big deal!
After years of being stuck in storage, this old chandelier got a new lease on life
I started a new project- valences. I still need to tweak them and make about five more, but this was something I hadn't really made before. Cutting nice fabrics can be stressful to me, so I'm happy that I got this started. Now I just need to figure out how to make the results be something I'm proud to share.  I'll post more pics and tips when I finish these. 

Happy Friday to you and your people! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Magic of Spray Paint!

I'm pretty convinced that spray paint is the grown up equivalent of "magic in a can!" For less than $4, you can transform practically any ole object from trash to treasure in like ten minutes. Ok, ok, maybe more like fifteen minutes.

Years ago, like six or seven of them, we were expecting family for our first Easter and I went to dust off the dining room chandelier. I barely touched it and the thing crashed onto the table! Yes, that actually happened. In tears, I convinced my not-so-much-a-fan-of-electrical-projects-husband that he HAD to quickly hang another chandelier before family arrived to our new house for Easter. At the same time, since I am also part pack-rat, I had him save the old chandelier, convinced I would find the perfect something for it someday.

Today, the time had finally come for that old chandelier to serve a new purpose! I cut all of the old electrical wires and lightbulb holders out of that thing, rubbed it down with a little steel wool, and painted it the perfect shade of red. 

Then, I hung it from the magnolia tree in our backyard. I stuck the children's little plastic table underneath it and have visions of the cutest Fancy Nancy-style tea parties and play-doh formation creating taking place there. And there will be candles, oh yes, there will be little candles in that chandelier. Maybe even the faux-candles (you know the little battery-powered ones). I'm really going to have to do something about the old table though...hmm...project!!!

Happy Creating!

Tips (aka, what I learned today):

1. Hang the chandelier from something to paint it. I used a ladder so that I could get to it from all sides. Note, you will probably get overspray on to your ladder. I did.

2. Hang the chandelier upside down to paint it first. You sit under a chandelier, and very rarely see it from the top. So, by painting it upside down first, you get better coverage and don't miss the visible spots. (I didn't do this and was a little upset that I hadn't thought about this first.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pillows: You can do this!

Yesterday afternoon I sewed my first real thing this year- pillows! Actually, I have only sewn a couple of things since Halloween when we closed on the new house, which was months ago. It sure was nice to be back at the machine.

Here was the basic chain of events:

1. Realization that the pillows on the front bench look like this:

Yuck! (In case you can't tell, they are very badly faded and damaged from being outside.)

2. Made decision that these pillows need to be fixed RIGHT NOW. (Sadly, this was actually on Monday evening, after dark. I have a pretty strict rule of not going outside in the dark alone. It has to be a pretty big reason to break this rule OR the hubs has to be home to protect me. I may be too old to be afraid of the dark, but I am anyway, so there. Instead of getting the old pillows, I decided to rummage through my gobs of fabric for options.)

3. Daylight= access to pillows. Got them. Measured width and length.

4. Cut fabric and inch longer on each side than the measurement I got in step 3.

5. Sew. Stuff. Sew.

6. Run out to porch and place pillows. Step back and admire.

For these pillows, I basically used the old pillows as a pattern and reused their filling, so the whole project has cost me less than the price of a yard of material (which I probably paid about $6 for). I have four more outside pillows to recover, and next time I should take some pictures so you can repurpose your old pillows too. Would you be interested in seeing those?

I probably spent less than an hour from choosing the fabric to actual sew time, if you ignore that I had to wait for the sun to come up. You can do this project too and spruce up your outside spaces with minimal cost.

For you experienced in the art of sewing, you know that the basic pillow is not to be feared. In fact, I probably have 10 yards of fabric waiting to be transformed into new pillows and valences for the new house. They just require time and patience.

If you are new to sewing, pillows are a great place to start! There are a few simple tips and techniques you need to know, and you will be creating your own pillows in no time. 

Are you interested in a tutorial on making these pillows? 


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sundays are Fun-days

Over the last few months, we have been so crazy busy with the move and pregnancy and holidays and... and... and...that we have spent a lot of time together, but it wasn't necessarily time spent just enjoying ourselves. We have resolved to spend more quality time together just as a family. As a start, the past couple of Sunday afternoons have been spent at home with a laid back kindof feel. Two weekends ago, we made a big brunch, set the table all cutesy on the back porch, and just hung out together.  It was wonderful!

This past weekend, the kids and I set out to fill the new outside "toy box"with their favorite backyard belongings. Although this was a little bit "work," it was an activity we could do together and they were excited to have all of their toys together. Halfway through, my daughter started in on how hot it was outside and how they should be able to play with water! Water play in January, I have to be kidding, right?!? I wish I was kidding. However, it was hot.

The kids ran inside for their swimsuits and I collected the toy sink, old sandbox, and a random tote box.

They played for a good hour in the water. We had some old paintbrushes that they used to "draw" on the deck with water, too.  The tote box filled with water was the biggest hit. Afterall, why would a child play with the water sink or ladybug that are designed for children to play with outside when a $15 bucket is available???

Maybe the next time they ask for water play, I'll bring out the Water Pipes Set we put together last summer!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Getting Back in the Swing of Things!

To say that we have been busy around our house may be more than an understatement. Our family activities left me little time to devote to HappyLittleMonkey and blogging, however, the dust is starting to settle and I'm looking forward to blogging about our adventures and updating the shops!

Since my last post in August, there have been quite a few changes in our little world, including that we

Found out we were pregnant with baby #3, 

Started both kids in new schools (kindergarten and preschool), 

Decided to make an offer on a new house, 

Celebrated our son's fourth birthday (which was a monumental birthday to him!), 

Announced that our pumpkin patch is growing, 

Closed on the new house on Halloween and then... 
...went Trick-or-Treating, 

Began a few renovations at the new house and moved in,

Welcomed our families to the new house for Thanksgiving (two weeks after we moved in), 

Learned baby #3 is a Girl, 

and Celebrated Christmas!

We also lost a dear friend to cancer, showing us all too closely how precious life is and teaching us to focus on what is truly important.

As we look forward to 2013, we are thankful for the opportunities it will bring as we welcome our second daughter, transform our new house into a home, and even more importantly, concentrate on spending more time with those we love and celebrating the life we get to live.