Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The One With the Cherry Coke Chocolate Cake

I saw a recipe for a chocolate cake using cherry coke a while back in Betty Crocker and have been wanting to try it. So I finally got around to it. It was very, very yummy.

I adapted this recipe from and made it my very own. Here's how:

To prepare: For garnish and a light sprinkling in the middle layer, you will need one jar of maraschino cherries. Drain the jar and reserve 1/3 cup of the juice for use in the batter.  Prepare two 9-inch pans with butter, flour and parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350.

For the cake you need:
  • 1 box Devil's Food Chocolate Cake Mix (I used Pillsbury's)
  • 1 cup Cherry Coke
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup of the juice from the jar of maraschino cherries
Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Pour half the batter in each of the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then on a wire rack for one hour.

For the frosting, I used a chocolate buttercream recipe from my mom that I just love. It is perfect.
  • 1 pound (3 1/4 cups, loosely packed) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons milk or water*
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
First, combine the butter and sugar, beating on low until completely blended. Add milk or water, vanilla and cocoa powder. If you want the frosting to be thinner, you can add another tablespoon or two of milk or water, beating on low until completely incorporated.

*I don't notice much of a difference between the use of milk or water in this recipe. Some people think the milk makes it creamier, however, if you use milk the cake must be refrigerated.

Assemble the cake: Spread one light layer of frosting on the first layer. Cut ten cherries into small bits and spread over the frosting. Add the second layer and frost the cake. Garnish with cherries as desired. Enjoy!

This cake is perfect even if you aren't a big fan of cherries. The cherry coke really just adds a moistness and a faint hint of something new and exciting, but is not overwhelming. However, if you really like the cherry flavor, let the cake sit, at least overnight. The longer it sits, the more the cherry flavor seeps in and makes it even more delicious. 

P.S. A friend (Hi, Betsy!), made this cake substituting regular cherry coke for diet cherry coke and said it turned out great! So feel free to do that if you'd like. :-)

Monday, August 29, 2011

The One With the Instagram Weekend Recap

If you have an iPhone and love taking pictures, you should get Instagram. It's a free app that is lots of fun. As you can see, I take far too many pictures with it. And will now give you a weekend recap via my Instagrams.

Our Friday was spent visiting Mallory and her niece Addie. We went to the pool in the afternoon and then had a fun evening at home. Mallory made a cheesy bacon pull-apart for dinner and gave us the coolest gift for mine and Steve's anniversary (I can't wait to get it hung up and in use!). We even had a little birthday party for Ellie since Addie won't be able to come to her real birthday party in a few weeks. I don't think Ellie really got it. Then we went to the Art and Air Festival in Albany, Oregon, and had caricatures of the babies done. It was pretty awesome.

On Saturday we road-tripped to Spokane, Washington, for my grandmother's wedding. It was a sweet time hanging out with the family.

Since we drove 6+ hours each way on Saturday, we had a low-key Sunday just relaxing with the babies at home. It was a pretty wonderful weekend.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Speechless Sunday

Apparently, I love this picture so much I pinned it twice. Via Jana Laurene.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Streamlining Saturdays: Toy Maintenance

If you have kids then you know that the toy situation can very quickly get out of hand. And by that I mean that there can be a lot of toys and they can be everywhere. As a solution to this problem, I have designated toy containers in the house: a trunk of toys in the living room and a few baskets of toys in each of the girls' rooms. To make sure that the toys always fit in their designated areas, I rotate toys. That means that once a toy is no longer age appropriate or well-loved, I either put it in storage (for later use) or donate it. Especially after birthdays or Christmas I purge the old toys out. If they are great toys that just don't get much use, I keep them for re-introduction at the next purge. This makes it seem like the girls get brand-new toys every few months, when, in fact, they've just forgotten about them and get to enjoy them anew.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The One With My Sweet Baby Girls

There are a lot of posts that could have that title. But today's is about my sweet baby girls and how they are sweet sisters who love each other.
Also, Ellie has been so cute in her posing for pictures lately. She leans in and says, "Smile." Of course, she says that and doesn't actually smile, but it's pretty adorable anyway.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The One With the Play Kitchens

I'm hoping that Ellie wants to grow up to be a baker. Well, not just a baker, perhaps. But I am looking forward to many fun times in the kitchen with her. To get her started, I'm pretty sure she needs one of these kitchens for her birthday.

I was first inspired when I saw this gorgeous retro kitchen from Pottery Barn Kids.
Of course, just like anything from Pottery Barn, it's a little out of my price range. So I went a-hunting and found the following:
This pastel one is pretty adorable:

And this is a much more affordable version of the pink retro kitchen:
But this blue vintage kitchen is my absolute favorite. I'm pretty sure Ellie needs this. Really bad.
Wouldn't it be the cutest thing outfitted with some play sets from Ikea? O, and she could wear the little apron I'm making her for her birthday. And we could bake treats together. And you could come have some. Ahhh... some of the perks of being a mom.

So there you have it. My tops picks for Ellie's future play kitchen.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Speechless Sunday

This photo has been floating around Pinterest and I just love it! It is on my to-do list to paint something blue for Ellie's room, and I think this would be the perfect shade.
(I don't know where this came from originally, but looking at the items displayed, I'm guessing it was an ad for Anthropologie.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The One With the Very First Book Club

Today was our very first book club meeting. We discussed The Help by Kathryn Stockett. And we had caramel cake for a book-themed snack. And it was lovely.

Streamlining Saturdays: Silverware

In an effort to streamline the putting-dishes-away process, I have learned that sorting the silverware as you put it in dishwasher makes it so much easier to put away afterwards.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The One With the Fudgy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

Are you in the mood for something amazingly delicious? Well, start making these right now!

I saw these amazing Fudgy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars on Pinterest, which linked me to this blog. They are from plain old (but nonetheless, good) Pillsbury. O, and did I mention they are amazing?

They are very simple to make and really hit the spot. In case you don't want to link to either of those websites to find the recipe, here's how I made it:

You'll need:

1/2 cup  + 1 Tbs butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Heath or Skor bars, ground to bits
1 roll refrigerated cookie dough (Or make your own. Might I suggest this recipe?)
2 cups (one 12 oz bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" pan.  Let dough stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Graham Cracker Crust
  1. Place 32 graham cracker squares in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Use a rolling pin to crush them to crumbs. The smaller you get your pieces, the better. Also use a chopping knife to dice the toffee bars to bits.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs with 1/2 cup of melted butter and 2 toffee bars worth of bits. 
  3. Press crust into the bottom of your pan and set in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the fudge:
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate chips, 1 Tbs of butter and sweetened condensed milk over medium heat. Stir frequently until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla
  3. Let stand for a few minutes and then pour over the graham cracker crust.
And for the grand finale:
  1. Break the cookie dough up into small pieces and crumble over the fudge layer.
  2. Take remaining toffee bits and graham cracker crumbs and sprinkle over cookie dough.
  3. Bake for 25-35 minutes.
  4. Once concoction has been baked and cooled, place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Hints: This is pretty good warm (just check out the ingredients and that's not hard to tell). But it is much better the following day, after complete cooling. Seriously.

Also, I think the semi-sweet chocolate chips make the fudge layer very rich. I would like to try using milk chocolate chips in the future to see how that tastes.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The One With the Lovely Day

You know, I'm really not much of a cook. All the effort involved in cooking seems, to me, better spent on baking. But anyway, I make up for my lack of cooking skills by being friends with people who have them in abundance. Exhibit A: Brynn

Brynn invited us over for lunch and made us the most fabulous meal: Baguette with homemade pesto, tomato soup with meatballs and peppers, and a goat cheese, pear and honey-lime vinaigrette salad. It was very yummy.

O, and I contributed Oreo Soup. Yeah... I tried making this delectable-looking dessert, but went wrong somewhere in the cooking of the Chocolate Silk Pie layer and it never set. But it was the best Oreo soup I've ever eaten. (So good, in fact, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to always make that layer incorrectly.)

And beyond the wonderful food, we had lots of fun playing at Brynn's house on her piano and with her dachshund, Isabelle. Ellie was very polite and ate her soup like a little lady. And remembered to say "please" and "thank you," too.

I think Ellie wants to be a famous composer someday.

Brynn and I are planning on swapping our expertise more frequently in the coming weeks. I am greatly looking forward to it, as is Ellie, who woke up this morning still talking about Isabelle and the piano.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The One With the Things I Love About Ellie (22 months)

Today begins Ellie's last month of being under two. It is so crazy to think that she is really getting that big. But it also somehow feels strange that she is only almost two. Having a kid has changed my life so much that it is difficult to remember what it was like before she was a part of it.

Anyway, as always, she is perfectly adorable and has been doing the sweetest things. Not a lot of changes over this past month except a wide increase in vocabulary, but here are some fun things...

1. I love that she is so polite - always saying her "pleases" and "thank yous."
2. I love the way she runs and stamps her feet excitedly on her way to retrieve her shoes so she can go play outside. Usually clapping and exclaiming, "Yay!" the whole time.
3. I love her constant inquisition, "That?" meaning, "What's that?" She asks it about practically every thing we ever see. 
4.  I love her wise eyes. They always make her seem so confident and mature that it is sometimes surprising to realize she is still just a kid.

5. I love how much she likes her "Wheels on the Bus" book. And I love hearing her sing, "Move on back, move on back, move on back," when she's supposed to be sleeping at night.
6. I love that when she went to the beach she hated getting the sand on her feet so she just held them off the ground while she played. (See some beach pictures here.)
7. I love how she likes to practice her letters by making little scribbles with her chalk all over the back patio.
8. I love how when she is eating her peanut butter toast she first licks off all the peanut butter before taking about half an hour to nibble the bread away.
9. I love how much she asks to hold Olivia, even though Olivia is getting so big that she can't really be held by a toddler very well.
10. But the thing that I love the very most about this past month is that she learned to say, "I love you, mommy." Which sounds a lot more like, "Wawuvwoo, {pause while she thinks about who she loves} mommy." She likes to say it to her daddy and Olivia, too. It literally melts my heart. Every time. (Plus, I know that you all love pictures of babies kissing. They do that a lot. They're pretty adorable like that.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Speechless Sunday

I just absolutely love this. Don't know where it is from originally, but I found it here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Streamlining Saturdays: Socks

Well, we've got Speechless Sundays and I think soon I'll start Mommy Mondays to discuss all things having to do with being a mom - the ups and downs, the joys and trials. As a mom I try to find any way possibly to make my time more effective - whether that be housekeeping, laundry, crafting, raising children... whatever. So, as I encounter great tips for streamlining tasks - household or otherwise - I'll share them with you here. If you have a tip you'd like to share, feel free to email it to me (I'll give you credit!).

To begin this series I'd like to share with you my absolute favorite tip. Ever. Ready? Ok.

Instead of spending tons of time matching socks after you've done your laundry, do this: Fold each pair together as you toss them into the laundry hamper. On laundry day, take your pairs of socks and use a safety pin to clip them together at the toe. Once they have been washed and dried, they're already paired up and ready to be put away!

This tip, which I learned from my mother when I was in high school, has literally saved me hundreds of hours of sock-pairing time. Before our house was revolutionized by this thought we spent many a weekend pairing mismatched socks while watching movies. And, inevitably, we ended up throwing away many socks that had become mate-less. I honestly don't think I've lost a sock since starting this. It has undoubtedly streamlined my laundry process, giving me that much more time to do things I love, or at least watch movies in peace.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The One With Jake's Silhouette

 I love silhouette art. It's so clean and classy.

My friend, Betsy, asked me about doing a silhouette of her son, Jake (Ellie's BFF). I was happy to try again. I hadn't done once since Ellie's, but now I'm hooked and want to do many more. Look how well it turned out! I started with this picture, plus another profile picture that showed me the back of his head:

And ended up with this:
Cool, huh? These silhouettes are rendered by me and then hand-cut and assembled with the name and background of your choice and is available in in my Etsy shop. All I need from you is a profile picture of your child! Email me if you want to get started now!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The One With the Big Things

I love this quote by Robert Brault. And I think quotes turned into carnival tickets are pretty awesome, too. So I combined the two and voila! I even made it into a free printable for you! There are four different color combinations for the tickets. Use the big ones for greeting cards or simple notes, or use the small ones the next time you need tickets for a drawing.

4 Large Tickets, click here.
12 Small Tickets, click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The One With the Crib Skirt (+ Tutorial)

A while back I showed you Olivia's Woodland Party Nursery. While I was putting her nursery together, I couldn't find a bedding set that I liked so I ended up piecing one together myself. I got her pink sheets from Ikea and decided to make the crib skirt out of some fabric I found that coordinated with some other things I had already picked out.

It turned out so well and is more perfect than any crib skirt I've come across before or since - which is the beauty of DIYing. Back when I made this I couldn't find any good tutorials on how-to, so I decided I'd wing it and then create one myself and then fill you in!

Click "Read more" to view the tutorial:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The One With the Thank You Card

If you are like me and keep the most miniscule scraps of paper for a rainy day, well... your rainy day has come. This Thank You card made with paper bunting just requires triangles of your favorite scraps.

Just make a template of a triangle that is the correct size for the card you are using. Use this template to cut similar triangles out of the paper. You can write letters on them or leave them blank for a festive card for any occasion. Use a paper-safe glue to adhere the flags to your card.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The One With the Crazy Quilt (+ Tutorial)

Ok, so this quilt isn't that crazy, but I couldn't think of a different name.

I made this quilt using fabrics from a Blake Riley collection and I love it. I think it will make the perfect gift for my niece whose birthday was (gasp!) a few months ago. I know, I really should be more on top of things. But anyway, I thought I'd fill you in on the how to for this kind of quilt.

I'm not claiming to have thought up this idea myself, but I can break it down for you. Ready? To view the tutorial, click "Read more."

Friday, August 5, 2011

The One With Liam's Birth Announcement

I know you've seen a lot of this little guy lately, but I had to share one last project revolving around his arrival: birth announcements I designed! This design is available in my Etsy shop. You can always contact me directly for orders until then!

Printed as 5x7s and available in black-and-white:
Or in partial or full color:
Of course, color scheme can be changed for girls (see Olivia's here) or customized!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Other One With Little Liam (3)

Liam was not too excitable during his portrait session. He just wanted to snuggle up and stay asleep. Which was just fine with me. I feel like I never got the opportunity to get these sleepy newborn pictures of my girls because they were too easily awoken. So I was very happy to snap a few pictures of the little snoozer.
I even played around a little with focus. That was fun.
Love this little pouty lip.
And this very angelic look.
Thanks, Tom and Emily, for sharing your beautiful baby boy with me! He's a keeper and I'm looking forward to watching my little nephew grow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Other One With Little Liam (2)

Precious little Liam's newborn portraits (as promised)!
I love tiny little baby details.
Even more tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The One With Olivia's Woodland Party Nursery

Now that Olivia is a whopping 5 months old, I thought I'd get around to posting about her (recently) finished nursery. Yep, I'm that on top of things. I feel validated, however, knowing that it took Katie Bower just as long to post about her son, Will's nursery. And she's a pro. If she can do it, I can, too.

Aaaanyway, you may remember the mood board for a Woodland Nursery that I posted back when I was pregnant. Well, the color scheme ended up turning out a bit darker (not so pastel-y, but still plenty pink). I was a little afraid of going for moodier hues, because, let's face it, I'm pretty into soft, bright and girly tones. But I really love it. A lot. And now I will show it to you in all it's glory. Except minus the glory.

So even though the theme was technically a woodland party (I mean, how cute are little woodland animals partying?), the real theme turned out to actually be As Cheap As Possible. I think the only thing in this room that I didn't either make or put together myself was the rocker. Literally. Ok, and the sheets. And a blanket or two. But for the most part, this was a total DIY and AIY (assemble it yourself) project. The white shelf came from Target, as did the pink canvas drawers and the owl blanket. I found the lamp and retro clock at Ikea.

Also, we live in a rental which we are not allowed to paint. So that withered grey color was not my first choice. But I worked with it and it turned out ok.

This print of Brambly Hedge Summer Story is a vintage (ish) piece that was apparently in my room when I was a kid. My mom saved it all these years and I just couldn't resist putting it in Olivia's room. Again with the whole, "Woodland creatures are the cutest things ever." (And I am not the only one who thinks so. Steve was reading the book, When the World Was Waiting For You by Gillian Shields, to Ellie and then told me that the picture of the sleeping bunny made him want more babies. I'm not kidding you. He actually told me that a painting of a passed out bunny was his own personal form of anti-birth control. But I digress. Back to business.) Here's a detail of the print, which was apparently wrapping paper at one time that my mom had mounted to foam core back in the day.

Nowadays, bunting is found all over baby nurseries, but when I started this project way back when (like 8 months ago), I had never seen it used in a nursery before.
I made the bunting using plain cotton colors that matched the polka dots on the crib skirt I made for her. It was a simple way to tie everything together.

I also made the ABC blanket hanging on the back of her crib from the Wee Woodland collection by Moda.The colors went with the bunting and the crib skirt quite nicely.

Her crib is the Graco Sarah Convertible. We reused  the changing table Ellie had in her nursery. It was the best solution for such a small space since it acts as her dresser as well. The mobile came from Ikea and provides Livvy with lots of entertainment during the ever-difficult changing process. (And I hope you're enjoying my little baby prop.)

Probably my favorite part of her room is the little gallery wall I put together using prints from Trafalgar's Square and Katie Daisy snagged on Etsy.The fun thing about a gallery wall is that it allows to you buy smaller (and usually less expensive) prints.  I framed them with Ikea frames (at $2.50 each, it's hard to pass up). Whereas one print or canvas or whatever to take up that much space could easily cost $200, this entire wall, frames and prints included cost less than $100 (and even less to me personally, since most of the prints I received as gifts. The other fun thing about multiple little prints is that it is a great collaborative gift opportunity for baby showers, which is how I acquired most of these.).

This one was actually a Valentine's card by Katie Daisy, but I wanted to frame it because the sentiment is so sweet, and so appropriate for our little girl.

I kept the decor minimal and child friendly to ensure her safety and my sanity. What's a nursery that isn't the perfect place for your little one to play? 
So there you have it, Olivia's Woodland Party Nursery. It seems to fit her personality so perfectly - she's always ready for a good time.

Also, in case you're wondering, her sheets came from Ikea. Her changing pad slipcover is the one by Boppy. The drawers in her dresser were found at Sears before it was Ellie's. Anything else you want to know, just ask! 
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