Monthly Archives: October 2011

Wizard of Oz Party – Food!

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So I mentioned earlier that this was definitely the most fun I’ve had with a party before. The food was no exception. It was definitely an easier meal than I’ve done in the past – maybe that was what made it so fun? I also opted out of doing a cake. When given the option, Chloe really wanted everyone to have their own Ruby Red Slipper Bookmarks anyway, so I was happy – ummm very happy – to oblige her. :) Here’s a few shots from the food table….

Chloe chose chocolate animal crackers. Who knew? :)

The recipe for these yummy little (rather healthy, actually!) whole wheat crust fruit pizzas is here.

Mini pumpkin donuts – these things were a huge hit…and I didn’t even add the extra sugar coating!

And this was the hit of the party. This recipe shall remain secret. My lands was it awesome!

Costco. $15. Yeah, I cheated.

These were a great make ahead dish that just had to be reheated – again, simplicity was a BIG factor this year. :)

And what’s a party without a good punch? This one was not as sweet as others…mostly whole fruit juices, which I liked, and it went over great! I love that cookbook btw. A lot.

And for the birthday girl – her Ruby Red Sipper Cupcakes – with blue/white gingham cupcake liners! They were Paula Dean’s Red Velvet recipe with cream cheese frosting.

But all that work (or lack of!) would have been completely pointless if the little girls didn’t enjoy it!

I love how many chocolate animal crackers they all seemed to load up with…

Wizard of Oz Party – Setup :)

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Somewhere over the rainbow...and down the yellow brick road...is munchkinland. :)

This was definitely the MOST fun party I’ve been able to do. Having just seen Wizard of Oz for the first time about a month or two ago, it was rather exciting too. :)  You saw some of my Munchkinland setup things here, but there were several other things I couldn’t set up until today. And what a gorgeous day it was, too!  Here’s just a few of the fun things we pulled off. I’ll post the food and recipes later this week.

I had a blast using my cricut machine to make the letters on the fence – and my ATG gun did a great job taping them on – they all stayed perfectly – even in the wind!

The balloon rainbow was a cinch to make, and thanks to filling helium balloons for a quarter – I was able to get 60 of them filled for pretty cheap. It was the perfect welcome into Munchkinland for sure.

All I can say about this next picture is…the bday girls’ black tights, stuffed with printer paper, striped with construction paper, and stuffed into a friend of mine’s red heels. This was the little “easter egg” find of the party for everyone.

Ahhh...the Wicked Witch of the East!

Here’s the birthday girl taking a peek for the first time at her….

It’s almost time for a birthday party around here!

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After what happened to our little Chloe at birth, it’s hard not to get super excited about her birthday. So we do. Get really excited, I mean. :)

Christmas is a little different for our family, it’s more about serving others than it is about receiving gifts, so we kinda treat birthdays as a very special occasion.

And I like parties.

After Chloe’s Great Nanny from Florida came up in August and showed her the one movie she watched with Chris every time he visited her, she was hooked. In fact it was the very exact same 25 year old VHS tape that only made it through one viewing, with lots of ‘tracking’ needed (remember those static lines that used to come across the screen?!).  And she was still in love.

Maybe it was the first strains of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, or the Lollipop Guild, or the Princess Witch. Whatever it was, the Wizard of Oz is the theme of the party for this little 5 year old, and she’s SO excited to be Dorothy!

I wanna make this the most fun Wizard of Oz birthday ever (and the cheapest! :)) – so here’s a little bit of my prep work.

We’re making a giant munchkin land in the backyard…we already have a nice playset (thanks to Craigslist) and an adorable 2 story play house (thanks to my mom’s amazing $40 find!)…so the bare necessities are definitely there. I just needed some decorations.

I decided to make some giant lollipops and flowers.

First you need some styrofoam circles, some glue, glitter, and dowel rods. I got everything I needed at my local craft store.

I put some glue on the circle in swirly shapes. You could use a template, or you could eyeball it like I did.

Now for the fun part - GLITTER!!! :) (Yes I did this while the girls were in bed. My girls don't have a good reputation with glitter.)

Add a dowel rod into the styrofoam - these were $.59 each at my craft store - they're 1/2" thick and 36" long.

Add some cellophane and some curly ribbon and you'll have giant lollipops! :)

Now for the flowers…….

You'll need some curling ribbon, tissue paper, and crepe paper.

Fold 4 pieces of tissue paper accordion style - with your "center" color on top. Cut the ends of your tissue paper in a rounded shape like a half circle. Tie it in the middle with some curling ribbon, then carefully pull apart the pieces of paper. It'll puff up just like this one!

Add some crepe paper "leaves" and tape on those dowel rods, and you'll have giant flowers!

I painted my house for fall.

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No, really I did. I LOVE fall colors. Except for the girls’ rooms (which are a bright yellow for Kami, and a nice, calming – theoretically – sea green for Chloe), every room is a deep fall color.

I finally got around to getting my fall things put up this last week, thanks to some inspiration from my decorating class last Tuesday at Rose Johnson’s lovely home.

This scarecrow is for the girls. And that mum WILL bloom. I'm determined. Don't laugh...

I use the same exact wreath on my door every day of the year. I just change out the picks. This makes for an inexpensive "season" project (I never spend more than $5-$10 on new picks for the wreath.) And my door is always current (except that time I had hearts on it during St. Patrick's Day...) This is the one thing that gives me a "super-mommy-ish" feeling. :)

Here's a closeup of my fall wreath. I found it here where a girl made it for her friend's wedding. I just LOVED the way it looked!

So, you can use a Cricut for just about anything.

And ribbon. (And when Halloween is over, I'll just turn those puppies around, and change the ribbon to a different, more Thanksgiving-ish one. They're only $1.50 a roll this week at Hobby Lobby anyway.

These are also the same pumpkins my girls painted a few weeks ago. No, I didn't take the paint off - the rain did. I would NEVER steal my girls' art projects, wash them off, and reuse them for my own purposes. Ever.

Here's my "mantle" - I don't have a fireplace in this house (not many South Caroliner-ers do) - but this one totally works.

My table - I would love to get some place cards going too...I'm still working on some cute ideas for some. I got those green chargers at Target - in the dollar section! I bought some red ones too for Chistmas. :) Can I just say I LOVE that dollar section at Target?

These lanterns were from IKEA - like, $6 or $7 each - I'm a huge Pottery Barn fan, but not a huge Pottery Barn Stock Supporter...therefore...IKEA is my friend.

Here's my makeshift china cabinet. We were given this chest of drawers when we moved from WV from a dear friend, and it's since worked perfectly to hold all my china - which is really mostly my great grandmother's china. I'm sure it'll make an appearance at Thanksgiving.

Happy Fall ya'll. Have fun decorating your homes this year!

Starbucks Frappucinos. Cupcake Style.

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Welcome, Pinteresters!

UDATE: The cupcake tips I used for the frosting on this are on sale on Amazon right now – get the cupcake decorator’s set for only $7.19 down from $8.99! (Keep in mind this can change at any time though.)

After the many requests for this recipe and how-to, I thought I’d take some pictures and post this recipe.

My brother in law is getting married tomorrow, and since he and his lovely bride-to-be met at Starbucks, a Starbucks themed rehearsal dinner – with these cupcakes for dessert – was quite in order.

Keep in mind that at the end, you’ll see two different kinds of cupcakes – I did Caramel Frappucino ones and Double Chocolate Chip Frappacino ones. The recipe you’ll see here is for the caramel ones. I borrowed very largely from this lovely blogger here for the recipe and inspiration!

For the Cupcakes:
Recipe heavily adapted from Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn

3/4 cup whole or low-fat milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 package of Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of another pack of Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
2 teaspoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup white sugar
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated


Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until hot – stop short of a simmer. Stir in the instant coffee until well blended. Add the vanilla and set aside.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ground coffee and cocoa.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment until creamed. It should be slightly fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

Add 2/3 of the flour mixture and the sour cream. Add the remaining flour mixture and milk. Beat until smooth.

Scrape all the batter out into a separate bowl and wash the mixer bowl thoroughly.

Switch to the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. They will hold a stiff peak but they will still slip around a little in the bowl.
Fold the egg whites into the cake batter gently, folding the batter around until well combined.

Fill cupcake liners with batter and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (they baked up surprisingly fast).

For the Coffee Mousse - the yummy filling several of the wedding rehearsal guests drank right down…

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup water
1 package of Starbucks Via Caramel flavored coffee (You can find this at Walmart in the coffee aisle for about $7 a bag – so make sure you make these cupcakes to make that one ingredient worth this one expense!) :)

2 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream

NOTE: You can cut this recipe in half – you’ll have enough for one batch of cupcakes. But sometimes you might like to have more…you know, just because.

Whisk sugar, yolks, water and Starbucks via in large metal bowl.


Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water); whisk until candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 8 minutes.

Remove bowl from over water. Using electric mixer, beat egg mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes.

Beat cream in another large bowl until stiff peaks form.

Fold cream mixture into egg mixture.

For the Homemade Caramel Drizzle – this one I didn’t do today because I had some already pre-made in the fridge…don’t skimp on this or (gasp!) buy it in a jar from the ice cream topping aisle – this stuff is AWESOME! I’m pretty sure it could cure chicken pox.

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cut butter into evenly sized cubes and melt over low heat in large 3-4 quart saucepan.
Once butter is fully melted, add brown sugar, being careful to avoid the sides of the pan. If any stray sugar crystals fall onto side of pan, carefully brush off with a wet pastry brush.
Once butter and sugar are fully combined, add corn syrup and condensed milk. Clip on candy thermometer to side of pan.
Cook mixture on low heat (still continually stirring) for about a minute or two. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook/ stir until mixture reaches 225 degrees. Once the mixture is removed from heat, stir in vanilla extract.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:


3/4 cup sugar
4 egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Heat sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Return bowl to mixer, and whisk, gradually increasing speed from low to medium-high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat until air bubbles are gone, 2 to 3 minutes more.
To assemble the cupcakes:

Once cupcakes are cool, core out the center of each one. Using a pastry bag, pipe a small amount of caramel sauce, then pipe coffee mousse until the center is almost full, and then top with another piping of caramel.

Once all cupcakes are filled, pipe swiss meringue buttercream onto each one using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

Lastly, use a sturdy plastic freezer bag or disposable plastic pastry bag with a small hole cut out of it and drizzle caramel on top of each cupcake.

Now for the special part – (I always like to have some of these ‘special parts’ on hand) – take some starbucks straws – go ahead, stuff a few in your purse. One straw makes four tiny cupcake straws. Cut them in half, then in half again.

Stick one right into that yummy mousse filling and watch everyone try to drink their cupcakes. It’s quite humorous. :) Enjoy these – they really were are a hit! (Check out my big confession and the Double Chocolate Chip Recipe here.)

Starbucks Frappucinos. Cupcake Style.

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UDATE: The cupcake tips I used for the frosting on this are on sale on Amazon right now – get the  cupcake decorator’s set for only $6.06 – down from $8.99! (This price can change anytime though – so look before you buy!)

After the many requests for this recipe and how-to, I thought I’d take some pictures and post this recipe.

My brother in law is getting married tomorrow, and since he and his lovely bride-to-be met at Starbucks, a Starbucks themed rehearsal dinner – with these cupcakes for dessert – was quite in order.

Keep in mind that at the end, you’ll see two different kinds of cupcakes – I did Caramel Frappucino ones and Double Chocolate Chip Frappacino ones. The recipe you’ll see here is for the caramel ones. I borrowed very largely from this lovely blogger here for the recipe and inspiration!

For the Cupcakes:
Recipe heavily adapted from Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn 

3/4 cup whole or low-fat milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 package of Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of another pack of Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
2 teaspoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup white sugar
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated


Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until hot – stop short of a simmer. Stir in the instant coffee until well blended. Add the vanilla and set aside.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ground coffee and cocoa.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment until creamed. It should be slightly fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

Add 2/3 of the flour mixture and the sour cream. Add the remaining flour mixture and milk. Beat until smooth.

Scrape all the batter out into a separate bowl and wash the mixer bowl thoroughly.

Switch to the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. They will hold a stiff peak but they will still slip around a little in the bowl.
Fold the egg whites into the cake batter gently, folding the batter around until well combined.

Fill cupcake liners with batter and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (they baked up surprisingly fast).

For the Coffee Mousse - the yummy filling several of the wedding rehearsal guests drank right down…

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup water
1 package of Starbucks Via Caramel flavored coffee  (You can find this at Walmart in the coffee aisle for about $7 a bag – so make sure you make these cupcakes to make that one ingredient worth this one expense!) :)

2 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream

NOTE: You can cut this recipe in half – you’ll have enough for one batch of cupcakes.  But sometimes you might like to have more…you know, just because.

Whisk sugar, yolks, water and Starbucks via in large metal bowl.


 Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water); whisk until candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 8 minutes.

Remove bowl from over water. Using electric mixer, beat egg mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes.

Beat cream in another large bowl until stiff peaks form.

Fold cream mixture into egg mixture.

For the Homemade Caramel Drizzle – this one I didn’t do today because I had some already pre-made in the fridge…don’t skimp on this or (gasp!) buy it in a jar from the ice cream topping aisle – this stuff is AWESOME! I’m pretty sure it could cure chicken pox.

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cut butter into evenly sized cubes and melt over low heat in large 3-4 quart saucepan.
Once butter is fully melted, add brown sugar, being careful to avoid the sides of the pan. If any stray sugar crystals fall onto side of pan, carefully brush off with a wet pastry brush.
Once butter and sugar are fully combined, add corn syrup and condensed milk. Clip on candy thermometer to side of pan.
Cook mixture on low heat (still continually stirring) for about a minute or two. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook/ stir until mixture reaches 225 degrees. Once the mixture is removed from heat, stir in vanilla extract.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:


3/4 cup sugar
4 egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Heat sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Return bowl to mixer, and whisk, gradually increasing speed from low to medium-high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat until air bubbles are gone, 2 to 3 minutes more.
To assemble the cupcakes:

Once cupcakes are cool, core out the center of each one. Using a pastry bag, pipe a small amount of caramel sauce, then pipe coffee mousse until the center is almost full, and then top with another piping of caramel.

Once all cupcakes are filled, pipe swiss meringue buttercream onto each one using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

Lastly, use a sturdy plastic freezer bag or disposable plastic pastry bag with a small hole cut out of it and drizzle caramel on top of each cupcake.

Now for the special part –  (I always like to have some of these ‘special parts’ on hand) – take some starbucks straws – go ahead, stuff a few in your purse. One straw makes four tiny cupcake straws. Cut them in half, then in half again.

Stick one right into that yummy mousse filling and watch everyone try to drink their cupcakes. It’s quite humorous. :) Enjoy these – they really were  are a hit! (Check out my big confession and the Double Chocolate Chip Recipe here.)

Birthdays with a little walking pneumonia

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Poor Chloe was still feeling a bit sick from her walking pneumonia, and with everything she has coming up this week we decided to play it low and slow today. We started with a special birthday breakfast:

Blueberry muffins – made with help from Kami, of course.

She even helped drink the milk once it was poured in.

We got her gift ready to go!

And Chloe decided to open it right away. :)

She was pretty excited about her little breakfast in bed party.

I heard a couple of times, “Mommy, this is the birthday ever.”

And we ended the morning with a reading of all her facebook Happy Birthday messages. She heard every one of them!

Words said on my little girl’s birth day.

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Five years ago today I was in West Virginia. A soft snow flurry was gently falling on the fall leaves – it was rather calming. And beautiful. And cold.

I went in to be induced at 38 weeks because of complications with my pregnancy – namely, my high blood pressure from preeclampsia.

We prayed together in the car on the way to the hospital. “God, we’ve been praying all along that you would use our daughter. Thank you for giving us this day to finally meet her. We can’t wait to see how you’ll use her for your glory!” we said.

We had ultrasounds done to determine her development. “She looks great!” they all said.

She was born after about 12 hours of labor. I didn’t mind so much – after all, I was a mom! “We did it!” my wonderful husband, friend, and labor coach said to me.

A few seconds later, our little 8lb-7oz-not-even-19-inches-long chunker with spiky black hair was taken out of our arms back to the nursery, “just to check her oxygen levels”, they said.

A few hours later, I hadn’t held her yet. “She’s breathing 172 breaths a minute. She won’t be able to keep this up for long. We’re calling in some specialists.” they said.

A few hours later, I still hadn’t held her, and a doctor came in the room. He tapped my leg to make sure I was paying attention.

“She will make it. Or she won’t.”

It’s funny, he said a lot of words. But those are the words I’ll never forget. Ever. She had just as much of a chance of not being here as she did…being.

She was intubated, then carried away to another hospital 80 minutes away.  “We can’t life flight her like we want to because the ice is too dangerous for the chopper.” they said.  So down she went I-77 to Charleston Women’s and Children’s Hospital in an ambulance.

When she was 22 hours old, I followed behind. “Don’t touch her – it makes her worse,” they said.

“Fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God said.

They could never determine what her problems were. “Respiratory distress,” they called it. But she had 72 hours. There was nothing they could do – she had to decide to breathe on her own. She didn’t start until around hour 69.

Around the time Chris and I finally surrendered our daughter to whatever He wanted for her life.  When we realized that we had given our daughter to the Lord already for mission work across the world, or to a low-income public school system that could leave her heart broken.  But we hadn’t surrendered her now.  We  hadn’t surrendered that first kiss I would lay on her cheek. Or the first time I’d get to hold her.

But now we had.  We knew that God would be just as gracious to take her to Heaven with Him, or to leave her here with us.

Eight days later, we would take her home.

Our God has been so good to us. A lot of people say this. “Look at how God painted the leaves of those trees,” they’ll say.  Or “I passed my History of Civ Test!” they’ll say. Or “I had a great day at work,” they’ll say.

But I see it. Every morning when my little girl walks in the bedroom with “Good Moooorning, Mommy! Can I have some breakfast?”  And at night when she says, “I love you Mommy. You’re my favorite Mommy.” When she walks in a room and makes people smile. When she says “I wanna go see Jesus in Heaven, Mommy. Can you take me in the car? It’s all fixed now, we can take it to Heaven.”

My God is good. And today I can say,

“Bless the Lord, o my soul. And all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

And, thankfully, joyfully, tearfully, today I can say,

“Happy Birthday, little one.”

Fresh Start.

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Chloe can play by herself for almost 2 hours at a time now.

Kami is almost potty trained.

Chris is finished with school.

This means I have time to write blog posts again.

At least I do today.

Many have asked what our plans are now that we’re done with “the grad school thing”.  We’re still waiting on the Lord’s timing for that.  However, during this waiting time, we are growing so much in our faith and passion for Christ.

God has given us close to 40 amazing, energetic, excited college students to continually push us to our limits and make us run to Him. The opportunities they’ve taken to encourage us by encouraging others have been a blessing.

And these two – well, I guess that’s where my heart lies. Their smiles and giggles and antics give me so many reasons to “Bless the Lord.” (Psalm 103)