Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unicorn Cake

Kenna little friend Libby made a request of me. "Can you make me a unicorn cake, standing up?" Clearly the child thinks I am a magician. No. I can't quite do that, but I can do something...I thought for sure there would be a cake pan I could buy...but no! I couldn't find one! Resourcefulness kicks in...
I used my computer screen as a light board and traced the shape of a unicorn template from online. Then I enlarged it at Office Max by 220%.  Then I cut it in half.

I used the paper as my template to carve the cake

Voila! We have a horse!
Since I have never taken a cake decorating course (and I should!), there are a few key elements I struggle of them is the crumb coat. This time I did an especially careful job of it, and it was the best crumb coat I've ever done. The reason for this was...they requested NO FONDANT. Not even the much tastier marshmallow kind. They wanted only buttercream. I think they might have been trying to give me a heart attack:-)
Crumb coat, done.
For the crumb coat, I thinned down the icing with more milk (about 1T more), to make it less sticky and more "runny", just so it was easier to spread and work with. This seemed to be the key. I also placed it in my new wide garage fridge (blessing!) to "harden" before I applied the top layer of icing.
And she's done!!
I have said before that for each cake I like to buy one new item to add to my cake decor "tools" stash, as each thing tends to add up quite a bit, if purchased all at once. This time I bought CLEAR vanilla flavouring for the icing, so that the horse would be pure white, like all good unicorns are, and not off-white from adding regular brown vanilla to my buttercream.
After completion, and staring at her for a few hours, I though she was a little too plain. So I added a few more details. And I think this is perfect. I'll stop tinkering now.
I wanted the buttercream to be very smooth, and almost fondant-like...not always easy, as you might know if you have ever tried it. This was my first attempt at it, and actually, it took awhile, but it looks pretty good and is very smooth! I used two methods to accomplish this. I kept cleaning off my off-set spatula/spreader, and submerging it in hot hot water. This heated the metal which in turn sort of melted the buttercream into a smooth finish, when you smooth it over the icing. Then I also took a paper towel (Viva brand, as it has no pattern), and gently set it on the top and rubbed it. This definitely worked too. If the icing is sticking to the paper towel, throw cake in the fridge for a few minutes.'s pretty darn smooth! I was proud of that, being my first attempt
So, the top was easy to get smooth, and I promise, even a cake store's cakes aren't this smooth! But the sides were harder to do. Partially because the cake is not very tall, and there are a lot of awkward angles with the legs and neck. I got it "ok". Some areas are perfect and others are a bit lumpier, but overall when just looking at it, it looks smooth, so I left it alone and called it a day.
This is a lumpy section that I couldn't quite get smoothed out. Oh well. Better luck next time!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dress - Resolution

Thanks for the comments and emails, family! As most of you commented, the light green dress DID in fact make me look pregnant. The ones with straps were ok enough, but the other 5 girls are going with strapless styles and I don't want to be the odd man out, as it were. The other strapless dress with the gems on only available online and is no longer in stores...and then I found...

This NEW dress! It's not online yet, the style is brand new. It is very similar to the style I traded it out for, with a few small variations. I really like it!! It's ordered and done.

Welcome Home

Lauren gets to come home from the hospital today, from her surgery on May 24th. For those that are not on facebook (and may not know the story), here is a re-cap. Brian's sister Lauren had to have surgery on both femurs as a result of wear and tear and damage over time to the bones (Hypophosphatemic Rickets). Bone scans revealed that both femurs had stress fractures, so they did a surgery to insert steel rods into each femur to support the bones, which should be good for life!

The surgery was a little more complicated than they'd hoped for (a supposed 3 hr operation turned into more than 6 hrs), and then she was not able to leave the hospital right away, since she needed 2 units of blood etc. Just normal setbacks and complications from surgery, but a little disheartening none the less. The left leg was 75% cracked when they went in, and the right leg broke as they were doing their thing (and they had thought the right leg was not as bad). Poor thing. So grateful for these amazing surgeries! She's a tough one!! She's been dealing with the pain of these fractures for 2 years, thinking arthritis or something was setting in!

So she'll be home this afternoon and on the mend! Mom B and Meghan are here to help with everything. The Doctors promise she'll be up and running (literally) much before her wedding. There are no plans to delay the Aug 4th date, she should be good to go by then. YAY.

Nothing like a little chalk graffiti to welcome you home:-)
A decorated ramp

"Welcome Home Noni"

Kenna signed my name "mom" - because I wrote it:-)

We {heart} you

Dress Drama

Ok, I am in Lauren's wedding in August as a bridesmaid. She has selected to have each of her 6 bridesmaids wear a different dress in the same colour, all from David's Bridal, all gown length. The colour is Peacock, which is essentially Navy Blue, with just a slightly more green undertone. Very pretty. My problem: Lauren selected this dress for me to wear
I went into the store to get fitted and order it...and they CAN'T provide that dress in Peacock any time before September. WHA?! Momentary panic. The lady at the store told me Lauren picked out other styles that had not yet been claimed/assigned to anyone. Whew. She picked out this dress and it looked amazing. Done. Ordered. Crisis Adverted. I thought! I turns out the lady was mistaken and another bridesmaid has ordered that same dress. Uh oh! So, I am going to see if I can cancel that order and have another dress sent for me. Lauren picked out additional styles...which one should I go for? HELP!

This one is perhaps closest to her original halter dress pick

This one is really pretty!

Not sure if I like this one as much as the others

Not bad...I think it would look nice on me

I think I am most inclined towards the light green strapless one...or maybe the first pink one...however, I am not sure if they will be able to get all these before the wedding too, so I might be limited to the ones that are readily available.

Thoughts, suggestions? I need to move fast on this I think. Making an appointment to go back in and try some of these on!

Monday, May 28, 2012

DIY: Swimmies

Well, this is not really a "do it yourself", but it IS a big money saver, so we'll count it as DIY:-)

Swimmie diapers. Oh so necessary, and yet, so VERY VERY expensive. Especially if you are in a beach area or have a pool where you are getting in the water constantly...these things just ain't cheap!

But did you know you can wash them?! Yes, WASH THEM! They do not absorb water, soooo...they are perfectly able to be washed and re-used. I am talking about clean diapers here, (water and possible pee only). Throw the poopy ones away, gross. But any clean diapers, toss in the wash, and you can dry them in the dryer, or if you remember, pull them out and let air dry. You will get about 5 uses out of each swimmie diaper, instead of one. If you air dry them, you will get 5 to 7 uses. If you dry in the dryer, I'd say about 4 uses. You'll know when they've had it - they will get stiff and "crunchy" feeling, then it's time to toss them.

This is an AMAZING money saver! The first diaper is brand new, never worn. The middle diaper has been washed once, and air dried. The last diaper has been washed 4 times, and I believe dried in the dryer 2 of those times. I will probably be able to use it 2 more times if I air dry it.

I throw them in the washing machine with all my regular clothes, use normal soap (I do not use fabric softener, so I can't vouch for that). No special treatment at all. I do not use dryer sheets normally, so I don't know how/if they are good for this.

This will save you a few hard earned dollars!!

Memorial Day

Well, we love 3 day weekends. Especially ones where Daddy is OFF work! Fun! Basically...we hit up the beach every single day. It was glorious. These pics are from today (Monday)
Game: Kick the floatie. He really is turning into a big water baby!! He loves to go in the water
We love to go from 4:30 to 6:00. The weather is still gorgeous, but you miss the heat of the day, and don't need to worry about burning/sunscreen so much.
Beach Scene. We went to our fave, Chicks Beach. Brian, Kenna and Brooks are way out there, can you see them?

The big kids love to get thrown and are working on doing a back flip while in the air

"I doody" (dirty). He loves to go wash off his hands in the "Osh" (short for Ocean)

Building sandcastles is Kenna's expertise...the boys are the "wet sand" fetchers

My handsome boy

Tried a self portrait, and it was really zoomed in...but turned out alright, actually

Home for a grilled chicken sandwich! 393 calories for the whole thing, bbq sauce, Caribbean jerk marinade, bun, and all! My weekend splurge...sauce!! It was sooo good!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Road Play

We love to play on the street (we live on a cul de sac). We race, ride bikes, and have all sorts of fun together:-)
We heard the ice cream truck coming, right at the perfect time. Brooks ran in to get his birthday money. Grandma Kennedy sent each child $3 for their birthday for a purchase from the ice cream truck. A huge hit! We have now had ice cream truck treats...3 times! Each time they each got a $1 item so there was enough to share.
Yummy! A nice break on a hot day
Can you spot the house hiding in this picture?
This is our forest. Welcome.

Healthy Desserts - Recipe

I did something abnormal for me. I made a "healthy dessert". Actually, I've made two so far. Let me detail the experience. My new eating habits are going very well, I am consistently down 13 lbs, so I would still desire to be down quite a few more to be a healthy weight, but am very pleased with these results, as they have come from controlling my intake alone. I have not worked out one time, even for 2 minutes, since starting this "diet". I need to change that. Anyway. Who can eat like a herbivore {practically} and not have a dessert?!

So check out this recipe I saw on Pinterest...I thought it was worth the try for 58 cals per Chocolate Chunk Muffin!

A very unconventional recipe - I have never made a muffin with no flour! Anyway, here is the recipe in case the link above ceases to exist someday. {When choices are given, my selections are in blue}

1 3/4 oats
3 egg whites
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 C plain greek yogurt* (or regular plain low fat yogurt)
1/2 t cream of tartar (or 1 1/2 T vinegar)
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 C hot water
1 C sugar substitute (like Splenda) OR 1/4 C + 2 T Stevia*
1/2 C choc chips

*I used Chobani fat free plain yogurt and Stevia in the raw
Preheat oven to 350, line muffin tins. In a blender (or food processor), mix all ingredients together, except for choc. chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth. Place in a bowl and stir in 1/4 C choc chips. Scoop into muffin tins and bake for 10 mins. Remove from oven, sprinkle remaining choc chips on top, bake for another minute or so. (until inserted toothpick comes out clean). If making 24 muffins from the batter, it's 58 cals per muffin.

UPDATES/NOTES: I make these often now. What works best for me, is to put the oats in the blender alone, and grind until "powdery", and then add the rest of ingredients, and blend until mixed and smooth. Spray the muffin papers with vegetable oil spray. Also, it cooks in my oven for about 18 mins. I put chips on top at the 10 min mark, and return to oven until done.

Basically only one...maybe two. It doesn't look like the fluffy muffin pic online, it looks like this:
The main problem though was that it stuck to the muffin papers really bad. Next time I will spray the muffin papers with veg oil. ?. Weird. The batter was slightly thinner than normal muffin batter, maybe more like/slightly thicker than cupcake batter. It definitely needed the chips in/on top to sweeten it up. They are very cocoa-y...and I am not a dark chocolate fan (if you are, you would love!)...I don't think I'd enjoy them much without the sweetness of the chips on there. But as it is, this is a very yummy recipe, that I will make again for sure. I may attempt to grind/blend the oats and then mix everything with the Kitchenaid instead of blender? Brian and the kids adore them, picking everything they can off those papers! No one complained of it tasting too healthy or not sweet enough. Worth another shot and a few tweaks for sure.

Since I have an ice cream maker, I wanted to make a healthier ice cream type dessert. My first try was yummy. Find this recipe and many more, here.

3 C unsweetened frozen raspberries
2 C fat free plain yogurt (I used fat free Chobani Greek Yogurt, Vanilla flavour)
1/3 C white sugar (to taste)
1 T vanilla extract (I omitted this, since the yogurt was already vanilla, not plain)
1/2 - 1 C mini chocolate chips

Process all in blender until smooth (except choc chips), and follow ice cream maker instructions, add choc chips at the last five minutes to ice cream maker.

This was a little tart, but VERY good. I actually preferred it to ice cream using heavy cream...the texture was better, and it left a better taste in the mouth. (sometimes the heavy cream gives a "coats the tongue" feeling/aftertaste, and the yogurt does not). If using a sweeter fruit (strawberries?) I bet you wouldn't need much/any sugar. Next time I will use plain yogurt, I just didn't have any at the time, and wanted to get it done:-). We all loved it!


Grey set this up and called me to come see "Wook, wook! Daddy swords, fight'in". Awww cute. Are they fighting or kissing? After a thoughtful moment he thrust his hand in the air "FIGHT'IN". Boys!

Redneck Baseball

We don't own a baseball tee.
But as I see it, we don't need one.
We have a very large traffic cone (For an unknown reason. Random jobsite acquisition)
Works like a charm. Sometimes he hits it all the way to the brick houses driveway!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Angry Birds - video

Life is now complete...we can play Angry Birds all day long. joy joy joy

Greg House

I am long over due for a post about baby names! I recently had FUN helping a friend narrow down her name choices and with her permission will share a bit about that in another post. It was a complete blast to name someone elses kid, let me tell you!

Anyway, since this week marks the end of one of my favourite all-time tv series {House}, I thought I'd do a little tribute post.

Gregory House, MD. Hugh Laurie is one of my favourite actors, stemming back to his days as Wooster, from Jeeves and Wooster.
I named my son after a tv character. Not really. But actually...kinda, yah. I did:-) Inspiration comes from everywhere, I tell you.

With baby number 3, the girls name was decided on from day one. Shaughnessy Alea (Shaunie). And for the boys name...a little more tricky. The almost-used runner up from the first boy naming experience was Lleyton. It was my first choice for Brooks, but Brian won out. So it was my turn. Lleyton is perfect. (And the spelling is inspired by Lleyton Hewitt, an Australian tennis pro).

Since we have already determined a "theme"...each of our sons will be named after a family member for their 2nd middle name. We used one Grandpa's name for the first boy (James), and now it was time for the other Grandpa's name (David).

That left us with Lleyton Something David. A good start. Since Brooks' birth I had fallen in love with a new name...Greyson/Grey. I loooove it. Lleyton Greyson David sounds great on the tongue, goes perfectly with Brooklyn Carson James and I unofficially thought that would be my next boys name. and maybe with another theme going on - middle name with a "son" in it.

When I got preg, I wrote it down. Trouble. Lleyton and Greyson have too many of the same characters. It looks dumb. But I don't like Layton, Leighton or Grayson as alternative spellings, so what am I to do?

We came up with another name that could work - Judson. Lleyton Judson David works just fine. But I keep coming back to Grey. I just love it sooo much. We were at an impasse for many months. I was determined to have a perma-nickname for the baby, since the other kids have one. Jud/Jude was fine. I do really like it. But Grey...My Lleyton Grey just sounded so perfect.

I came very close to abandoning my choice of Lleyton, so I could keep Greyson. And I was on the hunt for what else Grey could be short for, if not Greyson, so I could keep Lleyton. It was a race against time.

Then I saw House. He was standing in front of his office (glass walls/door), and his name is written across the glass. His head was blocking the way, so all you could see is Gre.....y House. WHA??

I *knew* I'd found it the moment I saw it. I don't know why it never occurred to me before. Brian was working late. The minute he came home I said, I found it. Gregory. I knew he'd go for it, as his style is less adventurous than mine, and Gregory is quite a normal name.

It is also the name of my Uncle Greg, who was killed in an industrial accident when he was 18 years old. I was 18 months old at the time. It is also the name of Brian's cousin, who he really looks up to.

Lleyton Gregory David - Lleyton Grey - Grey. Perfect. It only took about 35 of the 40 weeks to find the perfect name. Not too bad:-)

Thank you House. I owe you big time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Own It

There have been a few facebook posts, blog posts etc along the same vein in these past few months. The age old problem. People. Compared to other people. This has got me to thinking about this problem. Although I hesitate to proclaim arrived-ness, I will say that I learned lessons very early on in life that helped me towards this end. I figured out these things in my teens in fact, and was able to put them into full practice in my 20's, and you know what they say? Practice makes perfect. This is now something that I hardly give a second thought to now...ever. It gives me great hope that things (like for example, worry) are able to be conquered. I'm not there yet with the worry thing, although practicing. God has proven his faithfulness time and time again. Slow learner. We are MORE than conquerors, now aren't we?

Alright, here are a few things that come to mind- lessons learned in "the fear of man". Things I worked through in my youth, and why not share? None of these things will be new information, I'm sure. But information is in your head. These things live in my heart. It's a very slow process...from head to heart. But it's an achievable distance, with The One who holds us together.

Be content - Not always easy, but always able to be done. It becomes easier once you realize what you need vs what you have. We need shelter from the elements. What we don't need is a flushing toilet. It's definitely a nice perk. So if you have one, but it's "yucky 70's green", count yourself as lucky, and try to go 2 days without using it. It's matchability with the rest of your perfect-home decor becomes quite secondary, and you begin to appreciate the existence and invention of the thing. Make it florescent orange. I'll still gratefully use it every single day. We need food and water to live. We don't need as much food as we eat. Or probably even as much food as we throw in the trash. We don't need water in fancy bottles. I have found that being GENUINELY grateful and content with the things that I have leaves little room for comparison. I believe I started my journey to being content and grateful when I was about 10 years old. I remember distinctly writing a note, nearing the approach of my birthday...a mission statement perhaps. Something to the effect of "No matter what I am given for my birthday - I will love it and be grateful for it". And when I got my gifts, although I don't remember what they were now - I do remember that I enjoyed them very much. The expectation of the gift was not there. My reaction to the gift was my expectation. And it sort of surprised me how much better gifts were, when received in this manner. So it became a theme, and one that is second nature by now. It doesn't matter how "crummy" or insignificant it might be. I will love, treasure, and find very good use for the things I am given. I could really care less how great YOUR gifts are...mine make me so happy I'm not even thinking about that.

Be happy for others - You have an amazing home. And I LOVE it. But I know that I am very lucky to own a home at all, based on quite a variety of factors (mainly money in my particular case), so while I can thoroughly enjoy your happiness over the things that you have, I'm sure you are completely bewildered as to why I am so in love with my things - which seem so shabby compared to yours. Being content with yourself does not mean denial of facts but rather acceptance of them. It does not mean I think I am better than you - it probably/actually means I think you are better than I am - and I am really happy about that. Love others. Skip the envy or jealousy and just love them. It's so freeing and rewarding.

Have appropriate expectations - People will disappoint you. Every single time. It doesn't matter who they are or how much they love you. You will be disappointed or hurt by them. Don't worry about it. Learn to be grateful, understanding and content in your relationships. Be slow to offense and aware of your own shortcomings. Never ask anyone to do anything you can do yourself - or are unwilling to do yourself. Talk to people. I've never yet met a mind reader. Nobody can know what you "think they ought to do" unless you tell them. And if they've been told and have decided on another way, let it go. Completely. You will be amazed at the joy you find.

Focus on the Truth - It is true that you are not as beautiful as Cindy Crawford. But the Truth is that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Don't build yourself up. Don't necessarily tear yourself down either, but don't build yourself up to the point where you can't laugh at yourself. "Does this make me look fat?" I don't know? Are you fat? Is there something you can do about it? If not, don't worry about it and be the best of who you are. If something needs to be done, do it. Focus on who God created you to be, and DO THAT. Don't fret over all the things that you are not. Don't seek for yourself more than He seeks for you. Don't underplay it either! Live up to, and grow your potential, but don't seek after the highest of places. Seek the Lord, His kingdom (not yours), remain humble and work as hard as you can. You can't go wrong in this case. Ask yourself at every turn "who benefits from this?" If the answer is "me" - I will have more money, more fame, more praise and accolades, more fans, more friends...than who is this really for? Perhaps a change in direction is needed.

Own it - In the end, own who you are. Don't get mad or sad that you aren't as good of a _______ as so-and-so is. You are who you were created to be. Be glad! Don't get offended that someone thinks you aren't as wonderful as _________. Maybe you aren't. Who cares? Your life should be so full that you have very little time to entertain such thoughts. If it comes down to it for some strange reason (because people are people), just own it - and move on. If someone disagrees with my parenting choices. So be it. They may do it better than I do. That doesn't bother me at all. Denial about life will get you no where. "I don't know why they'd say that, I'm just fine". Well are you really? Just admit that you are human. Own where you're at, and move on from there.

It's a journey. Enjoy the ride. And stop looking out the passenger window and focus on the windshield ahead. People will always be better than me, and I love them for that.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tee Ball - Video

The kids have been loving tee ball this year! Kenna is the only girl on her team, and remains unconvinced that girls DO in fact play baseball, or that it is a useful skill for any human to posses, regardless of gender. But in spite of all that, has still been having a good time. They are the HRHS New York Yankees.

Here's a little clip of them batting, which is way more interesting than them fielding, since of course, the fielding team almost never makes any outs, ever. They run through the line up once each inning, so each person gets a chance to hit and run:-)

This n That

New haircut for Daddy, "hockey hair" for Grey. Watching the Rangers WIN, again.
a chin scrape beside the scar from his stitches

Aviation Museum

The company Brian works for (The Woodard Group) has built a museum and hangers for someone who privately owns one of the most impressive collections of planes in the world. Brian has personally only been involved with building the WWI hanger, which houses bi and tri planes for WWI, almost every single one of them is operational! The hanger is 3 bays long and is post and beam. Since he's had experience with that type of construction, he was involved in the design/planning stages, and subcontractors did the actual work.

Currently they are building a German hanger...a Superintendent from The Woodard Group traveled to Germany to escort back the steel from an original WWII hanger that was bombed. They are replicating the structure almost exactly, using all/as much of the original steel as they can (it's been re "something'ed", so it's all safe:-). A few changes have to be made to consider the hurricane/high wind situation in VA.

Anyway, this is the weekend of the air show! We had fun looking at all the planes, and watching them fly! Here is a link to all the planes. Of course they are VERY loud, and the whole thing was very impressive. The runway is grass, and Brian said they tested it out by driving a suburban 70mph with a person on the back bumper. If it was too bumpy, it was graded some more. Crazy!

I didn't take as many pics as I should have. I got distracted and forgot! We invited some friends to go along, and even ate a steak dinner there. It was a nice day, and really perfect weather!

I think this was the Corsair

This one, whatever it is, is the first passenger/commercial plane ever (seats 6 + pilot). It is one of only 3 that are operational in the world.

A line up of planes getting ready to fly for us. The take off and landing strip is on the grass behind the planes.

A display
They also had people in full WWII war costume, and shot some HUGE guns (75mm or something? LOUD).

I really should have taken more pics. Maybe next year! It was a very enjoyable day!

Friday, May 18, 2012


This tray used to be a candle holder. I'm glad I didn't throw it away! Looking for a way to coral the "stuff" on the table and counters. It all fits! Pepper, vinegar (I use this ALL the time - so it doesn't seem weird to have it handy), napkins, olive oil and salt! Looks great and keep it all together.
I have been struggling with striking a balance...between functionality and decor. In some ways we have plenty of space (1200sq ft), and in others, I feel like we are maxed out. I am making my mission in 2012 to improve our living space, habits, schedules, etc, to suit the space we have.

I've been feeling a need for a place to put school things in the kitchen/livingroom, instead of always back to the bedroom. Enter my Pier 1 book shelf. Wanna guess how many times I've read about the life of Adoniram Judson in the past 9 years? Yah...that'd be zero:-) So I decided to loose the books (parenting etc books to the bookshelf in my bedroom) and make this a functional space.
I took some of the prettier/cool hardcovers and added them to my ladder bookshelf
I found some canvas baskets at Walmart for $4ea. that fit perfectly. So now we have a place to stash pencil cases and books without putting everything completely away. AND, actually, it doesn't even look that bad (although the pic does not do justice). Functional and decorative perhaps:-)
 Trying out a new "chore chart" thing I saw on Pinterest. I will make prettier ones from chipboard and gorgeous papers later, while we're seeing if the system even works, we're using door hangers from the Dollar Store. They work fine, just aren't that pretty!
Hang this on each child's bedroom door. There is a To Do side and a Done side. Write their chores etc. on clothes pins, and put them on the To Do side. When the chore is complete, they move it to the Done side! For days (sat), when reading or math might not be required, I put those pins along the bottom edge. Anything on the bottom is for another day. So far its working great - kids are loving it.
Another repurpose - toy box turned coffee table! We were always having such a buildup of toys in here, it just made sense to have a place to put them, without introducing more baskets. It is perfect!
My Dad made this toy box in the early 80's for my siblings and I. It shows wear from lots of kids and lots of toys, but I love it! If I ever get the gumption to refinish it, it would look amazing I'm sure. But I'm into the beat up look for now.
Working our way to a more efficient life!