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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

After a bit of a wild hair during a recent Joann's visit I made these skirts for Madison.  
I am sure you have seen this peachy-pink ribbon flower fabric.  Well, this trip to the store I was simply unable to walk by the display rack and not snatch up the fabric.

Mads and I are both obsessed with the vintage look.  I wanted to make a really precious skirt for my girly girl, and after a couple days of stressing over trying a skirt without a pattern, with rotary cutter in hand, the fabric went under the knife.

Going for a more "grown-up" look with her skirts, this is what we came up with.  Not too shabby for my first try at this style, & without a pattern :0}  Now I want one!

The second skirt is this teal tulle skirt.  Mads has always loved tutus, but felt like she was ready for a more grown-up form of that skirt too.  The outer layer is that mesh type of tulle.  Joanns finally started to carry an assortment of colors in that fabric.  We added a layer of doubled-over tulle underneath the mesh but on top of the skirt lining.  I think next time I will skip the tulle and just do the mesh.  The skirt didn't need the extra fluff and the tulle makes the mesh extra static-y. 

Mads also loved high waisted skirts.  She loves the big, wide belts and all that, so I made the skirt to be worn high and with a belt.

Poof!  Next time I will make the liner a bit longer too...actually, I might go back and fix this one still, but I still totally love it!

Enjoy your new skirts my dear!  And enjoy the fact we don't wear the same size ;0}
Otherwise they would be living in my closet {tee-hee}

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Peanut Butter Cup Perfection in a Cake

I offered to take a cake to my little brother's graduation party yesterday.  Knowing the boy has a love of peanut butter I thought a Chocolate Peanut Butter cake would be perfect for him.  While my torting precision was off just a tad, the combination of a few of my newly-favorite recipes were right on the mark!!!

2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
DIRECTIONS:
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two nine inch round pans.
2.In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
3.Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Out of utter laziness I copy and pasted that recipe.  I bless Shirlyo for her awesome submission of this recipe.  It is my most prized discovery, as of late.  The first two times I made this cake I did not use the full amount of cocoa powder.  The first time I only had just over 1/3 c. of cocoa powder, not quite 1/2 c., left in my container, but had already poured the other ingredients in the bowl, so I just went with it.  I also added an extra egg based on the reviews {already reflected in the recipe above-so only use three eggs ;0}  The cake turned out fabulously!!!  For David's cake I used the full amount and was surprised at how much more chocolaty it tasted, almost like a dark chocolate taste.  

So, here is my un-educated evaluation...if you are a milk chocolate fan, use 1/3-1/2 c. of cocoa, but if you like a dark chocolate, use the full amount, 3/4 c. or go wild and go for 1 full cup!  Sounds dangerous.

Hot Fudge- 
use as a filling or topping
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick {1/2 c.} butter
1 c. chocolate chips

Throw all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until melted.  Do not allow to boil.  Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.  Feel free to use any variety of chocolate chips- mint, cherry, peanut butter, butterscotch, cinnamon, white chocolate.  The recipe works with them all!!!

Peanut Butter Filling
 {like a peanut butter cup, but better!!!}
2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
2 c. peanut butter
A pinch of salt

Mix everything together and thin with milk until at the desired consistency.  I add the milk to get it a little more fluid than a peanut butter cup when using this recipe for cake filling.  You don't want it dry or it will dry out your cake.  I would probably start with 1/2c. milk.  I just pour straight from the carton, but using a measuring cup would probably be a good idea if you are not as random a person as I am ;0}

This is also my recipe for peanut butter bars, with only a couple tablespoons of milk instead of the 1/2 c.   You press it into a pan and cover with melted chocolate chips.  It is also the recipe I use for buckeye balls during the holidays.  I roll the peanut butter mixture into 1" balls and dip in melting chocolate.  Yumm!  

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. powdered sugar
milk, to reach desired consistency

Cream together butter, peanut butter and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until combined.  Add enough milk to reach an easy spreading consistency.


I got this recipe from Eat Cake For Dinner, from her Peanut Butter Cookie recipe.  I love the whole recipe, by the way, but have a couple adjustments for the cookie part.  I guess I might as well post that recipe with my adjustments too ;0}

Frosted Peanut Butter Cookies {adapted}
{Not your normal PB cookies!}
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. flour
1 (12 oz.) bag Reeses Peanut Butter chips (No substitutes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven.  Cream together butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the vanilla and eggs and mix well.  Add the flour and peanut butter chips.  Mix just until flour and chips are blended together.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough into 2-inch balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-13 minutes or until set.  Cool completely and frost with peanut butter frosting.    

For this particular cake, I used a big old sheet cake sized pan, something like 19x13" pan of the professional variety.  With that large of a pan, I doubled all of the recipes {we ended up with about 1/2 of the pb filling left over}.

The cake baked in about 45 min.  As we were working with a time restraint we didn't let the cake cool in the pan more than a minute or two, then dumped it out on a cooling rack for about 15 min.  Due to my usual disorganized state {I blame this house for not having any storage space anywhere near the kitchen} I could not locate the wise spot I decided to store my cake leveler and had to use a knife to cut the cake in half making a bottom and top layer.  We, meaning me and my fabulous 16 year old daughter Madison, slid the top half of the cake onto a flat cookie sheet, and then to a cooling rack, and let the two cake layers have another 5 minutes to cool.  We spread a layer of the fudge on top of the bottom layer, then dropped the pb filling on top of the fudge in clumps and smoothed it out, patting it down to evenly cover the whole cake layer.  The top layer of cake was slid back on top, and then the top was covered in fudge sauce.  We took care to not use too much fudge sauce that it rolled over the sides of the cake.  

The sides were frosted with the pb frosting, then chopped peanut butter cups were pressed into the frosting.  I added a top and bottom border of icing using the peanut butter frosting and a #21 star icing tip.  I piped writing on the top of the cake while we drove the hour up to the party.  

Isn't he handsome!!!  David won the rights to an amazing job with General Mills and will start that shortly now that he has completed his MBA.  We are all so proud of you Dave!!!  And I can't wait to get started helping with the wedding prep either.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Patriotic Door Decor

I had a request a couple weeks back for a door decoration for Memorial Day.  
After thinking a while and playing around with a couple things, I came up with these two.  I have one more to show you but need to add just a bit more before I do.

I really like this saying.  It seems to work for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Flag Day, September 11th, Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, and so on.

The flag was a bit tricky to figure out, and I would still change it a bit before selling it as a kit, but I am happy with the design as a whole.  I ended up not being able to get all 50 stars on, but I have reduced them down so next time they should fit.  The stars are vinyl.

My other sign is the classic yellow ribbon.  I fought over what words to actually put on sign.  Finally I settled on the traditional "Support Our Troops" to make it work for more situations, but I also thought "We Remember", "Home of the Brave", or "In Remembrance" would look nice on the ribbon.

Here is the ribbon plain...

Here it is with a huge bow.  I like the idea of the bow....

I love the added color...I am just not sure where to put it!

Here I have it just above the words...

Here it is up higher.  I would like it right where the two ribbon ends meet, but then I can't have words.  Such troubles ;0}

If you are interested in the pattern or kits for these projects you can purchase them on my Etsy site.  Drop me a line if you have any questions.  My email is vanessa.cam5@gmail.com.  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Xander is 1!!!

I had the best time last week playing photographer.  Thursday and Friday I practiced my skills by taking these first birthday pictures of Xander.   He was a total doll.  







I was more than excited to do a cake smash with the little guy.  It was so fun to watch him pick at the frosting.  Xander didn't like the feel of it on his fingers, but he managed to enjoy himself regardless when he finally tasted the sugary goodness ;0}

Thanks Xander for being such a fun subject for on of my first attempts at an indoor shoot!!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Uncle Sam Door Decor

Ta-Dah!
I am so proud of myself.  This guy has been on my work table for months now.  I was stuck for a while trying to figure out what to do to make him less Santa like.  Finally I reached out to my FB followers and got suggestions on how to finish.

I really loved the idea from Ann to add stripes to the hat.  


Doesn't he look handsome on the front door!?!  I had intended for him to be bigger.  I may go back an re-do him bigger still, but for now, I love him!

Then a whole slew of other friends suggested I add a little hand and a flag.  I don't know if this is what they had in mind...but I love it!

I tried a couple different lazy ways, and then finally cut a block of wood, drilled a hole at an angle to slide the flag into, and then glued that block to the back of the hand.  It worked perfectly!  Now, since the flag isn't glued in there, just held snugly by the drilled block, I can take the flag out for easy storage.

Thanks Uncle Sam for turning out so cute.  Now I can wave the flag with true crafter's style :0}

p.s. This guy is for sale on my Etsy site just in case you were wondering ;0}

Monday, May 5, 2014

It's Getting Buggy Around Here

Lady Buggington has made herself known.  I have been hiding this beauty inside, hanging on my door to the garage, waiting for the right weather to come outside.  Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota, and I thought an effort to welcome CUTE bugs would be well worth my time.  Heaven knows the ugly ones will start appearing any day now ;0}

I made this sweet lady out of 1/4" mdf and a little bit of beaded plywood.  She is a simple one, but the splash of red on my porch complements the flurry of activity in the neighborhood just fine.  I love the swirls that make up the wire antennae.  I think that thick, flat floral wire would be a nice way to make the antennae, but I was a little impatient and wanted my girl complete like yesterday!  This 16 gauge black aluminum wire did the job.

After she was all painted and sanded I sprayed her down twice with a nice clear spray paint.  I love the stuff.  I might as well invest in the Rustoleum company because I use a couple cans a week with my orders and all my new stuff.  

Speaking of new stuff, I found a fabulous Garage Sale Store in Eagan, MN.  I say it is fabulous because, unlike all the chain thrift stores in these here parts, it was actually affordable.  This lampshade would have cost me $7.99 or more at Savers or Goodwill.  It was $3.00 at the Garage Sale Store, and then 50% off after that.  

That low, low price was what made it possible for me not only to purchase the lampshade, but to reduce it down to this wire frame.  I bet you can't wait to see what I make with it, can't ya'?  Hopefully later this week I will get the chance to tackle that small sewing project.  

Things have been so crazy lately I am finding it harder and harder to get real work done.  I don't know if it is just spring, or the fact I now have teenagers that have to be driven all over the state, but I find myself wanting to just sit and rest OVER CRAFTING!!!  What is this world coming to!?!  

Don't worry.  I have plenty of projects up my sleeves.  There is a whole pile of started Memorial Day/4th of July projects sitting here, dozens of patterns waiting to be written, photos to edit and post, a stack of sewing projects...Whew!  Just the thought makes me want to retreat to the couch and play a couple more rounds of Candy Crush.  

I will be back.  After all, Lady Buggington isn't the only Bug buzzing round my porch.  See you soon with more little critters and hopefully a pattern to go with them!
Happy Spring!!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Babies and Blessings

This is my cute little nephew Sawyer.  He is a stinker, like all my sister's kids, and he decided to come early. As it turns out, an early birth was a good thing.  This little guy was born with pneumonia.  The doctor that worked with him at Children's Hospital, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said that most babies with this same condition are typically stillborn.  

When Sawyer was born he seemed healthy.  When he breathed his rib cage would suck in a bit, they call it retracting, but the nurses just suctioned him every once in a while and at one point gave him a little oxygen.  The doctor wasn't worried and everyone got to hold new baby Sawyer.  After some time though, they noticed that his breathing didn't improve.  He sounded more like he was wheezing than breathing.  The nurse came in to do his footprints.  While she was washing his feet off, he stopped breathing altogether and turned blue.  The medical staff worked feverishly to resuscitate him, and thankfully they were able to.  They began treating him for pneumonia, because there was fluid in his lungs.  

Shortly after that the attending doctors decided he needed to be life-flighted to Minneapolis to the children's hospital up there to get the help he needed.  My sister Kallie had delivered via c-section so she had to stay in her hometown hospital recovering while the baby was transported hundreds of miles away.  Grandma left that moment with older brother and sister, dropping them off with me when she got to the cities, then met the baby at Children's Hospital Minneapolis.  

This all happened last December.  It was quite a traumatic time for the whole family.  I suppose that is why I haven't been able to write about it until now.  Seeing sweet baby Sawyer lying there all taped and corded, when he should have been being snuggled was so heartbreaking.

Sawyer wasn't super premature.  He was born only two weeks before his due date.  Coming in at 6 lbs 9 oz and 19 inches long Sawyer was born a good sized baby, but his lungs were just not in good shape.  

I have nothing but fabulous things to say about the staff and facilities at Children's.  They were kind, organized, and very good at what they did. Each medical procedure was explained so we could understand it.  Really, I can't think of one thing they could have done to make the two week hospital stay easier on the family.  Every couple days I brought older brother and sister to stay a night or two at the hospital, then took them back home with me.  Children's had so many places for them to play while they were there.  The kids enjoyed sibling care, arts and crafts, various volunteer entertainers and even a teacher on staff to help my kindergartner nephew keep up with his school work.



Day after day we waited to hear of any bit of improvement.  I remember it feeling more like months he spent in the hospital, rather than weeks.  Slowly that handsome baby boy got stronger and was able to fight the infection that had consumed his lungs.  Once Sawyer was feeling better, the staff shifted gears in an effort to get him home.  Sawyer needed to be able to breath and feed on his own before he would be discharged.



Brother and sister were so excited when they could come into the NICU and see baby Sawyer.  Because sister was under 5, and it was at the height of cold and flu season, she was only allowed one visit during the whole hospital stay.

The day that Sawyer could be held was exciting for all of us.  Emmalee got one special visit to see her new cousin.  

As you can see, Madison was more than ecstatic as well.


I really wanted to share just a bit of our experience with the Ronald McDonald House.   Since childhood I have been hearing about the foundation, but before this hospital stay I had never really known much about them.  I can tell you now that I have experienced first hand the gracious blessing available through the Ronald McDonald House, thanks to so many kind hearted people.  The Ronald McDonald House organization is worthy of every penny you ever have donated and I hope Americans everywhere will continue to contribute.  
It was bright and clean, warm and inviting.  There were comfortable places to sit, a lovely homey atmosphere to unwind in after long days and nights in the hospital room.  The kids were totally welcome and had a blast playing there.  

Here is what the website has to say about it:

In terms of square footage, the new House is the largest inside the hospital facility within Ronald McDonald House Charities, occupying 8,500 square feet of space. The Ronald McDonald House inside the Hospital is designed to serve families with a child in Intensive Care as well as the other most critical cases throughout the hospital. This new program is innovative, monumental and only the 5th Ronald McDonald House inside a Hospital program in the world. With no geographic requirement, this significant endeavor speaks to our ongoing commitment to serve local families.

Accommodations

  • 16 private rooms with bedrooms and showers
  • In-room Internet, TV/DVD players, phone with hospital extensions
  • Full kitchen with snacks, beverages and cooking facilities
  • Laundry facilities
  • Living room and lounge space with a TV
  • A quiet space, computer lab with internet access
  • Exercise facilities
  • Outside patio
Eligibility and usage of the rooms will be determined on a nightly basis by Children's staff.
It was a huge relief to have the RM House to ease the emotional strain on the family.  The bedrooms were full at the time, but the hospital provided a room at a nearby hotel until there was availability at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, the one not attached to the hospital.  The family was welcome to use the other facilities at any time during the hospital stay.

These are pictures of the Ronald McDonald House in downtown Minneapolis.  
Even more amazing.  Seriously.  It blew-my-mind. 

The day my kids and I came to visit there were piles of presents {since it was Christmas time} that the kids could pick from.  Some families had been there for days, some months or even years while their children were fighting for life in the hospital.  

Volunteers brought dinner every night in both of the houses to feed the families.

This is my sister Katrina's boyfriend.  He hopped right in and washed dishes after dinner.  


There were places to sit and work, eat, relax and talk or watch tv.

Uh, check out this play castle.  It had two floors!  The thing was fully stocked like a real house, all for the little munchkins to play in.


The whole place was decorated for Christmas so these families, though they were not at home, could still enjoy the holidays.

Around every corner was another kitchen families could use.  What a blessing.  Food can be a huge financial hardship when you are in the hospital for months.  The opportunity to cook their own food makes the financial burden on families less, along with improving the quality of their food.  Even a week of eating out constantly makes me sick.  This is amazing!







The outside areas were covered in snow, but what fun they will be this time of year with nature waking up with Spring.

I will forever be grateful for the Ronald McDonald organization for taking the time to make this all possible.  When I think back on the whole hospital ordeal, were it now for the RM House and all it had available...well, I really don't know how Kallie and them would have made it through.

At the end of the hospital visit, Kallie came by my house for a little photo shoot before heading for home.  Thanks to the wonderful care at Children's Hospital of Minneapolis and all of it's amazing employees and volunteers, Sawyer was able to make it home for Christmas.

And that brings me to the last two weeks.  

We had gone down for Easter to see.  We played with all the cousins and with smiley Sawyer every second we could...
but just a couple days after we got back home, Sawyer went into the hospital again.  Though he was discharged the next day, he ended up right back in the ER that night, and then was taken back to Children's via ambulance.  Big sister came back to my house, and we all held our breath hoping the doctor's could find out what was wrong with our little guy.  

Poor baby.  Sawyer could hardly cry, his throat was so dried out from the oxygen.  I couldn't believe I had bounced and smiled and tickled that little guy just a couple days earlier.  Tests were run while they treated his viral infection.  He had pneumonia again, along with bronchitis.  Many days and payers later Sawyer started to improve.

He was awake more and smiling more.

And loving his brother and sister again.  

With the damage Sawyer had to his lungs before he was ever born, I am afraid he has a long life of illness ahead of him.  Luckily, he has a fabulous family that loves him and will make sure he is well cared for.  

One really sad thing, Kallie recognized a mother of a sick child she had met during the first hospital stay.  As she talked with the woman Kallie learned the mother's poor child was STILL in the hospital.  They had been there for 11 months, actually.  What a sad thing to have a child spend a whole year + in the hospital, and the mother or father sitting there each and every day hoping for a good turn.  It just makes me even more grateful for the Ronald McDonald House and the work that is done there.  When your family is in crisis, every bit of help is such a relief.

As for little Sawyer, his Auntie Nessa is just happy to see his smiles again.  

You know I AM his favorite person ever, right?  

I am sure my name will be the first word out of his lips.
I thank heaven this baby is here today.  
It is just one more marvel thanks to the blessing of modern medicine.