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November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Highlights

Thanksgiving came and went just like that.  And this holiday we celebrated the faithfulness of the Father with:

a fire,
a feast,
fanfare for an infant,
and family.


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November 23, 2010

The Thankfulness Song

What we're thankful for this holiday season.


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November 22, 2010

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

{ rosy and buttery cupcakes }
I am a huge fan of cream cheese frosting because (1) it tastes great, (2) it's easy to make, and (3) you can make countless variations.

But I thought I would be adventurous and try something new and different this weekend.  So I attempted to make swiss meringue buttercream frosting.  This definitely requires a bit more time, but the frosting is so amazingly light, smooth, and buttery.

Since I was going all out on the frosting, I kept the cupcake itself very simple and used Trader Joe's Vanilla Cake Mix (I LOVE Trader Joe's products).  I simply followed the instructions on the box.

Here are the instructions for the frosting.


Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
(Recipe from Martha Stewart)

Makes about 9 cups, enough for about 28 cupcakes


1. Gather ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 10 large egg whites
  • 4 cups (8 sticks or 2 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2.  Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.

3.Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.

5. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

6.  And buttercream frosting is complete!

I tinted the frosting with Wilton's icing color in Rose Petal Pink to add the pretty pink hue.

I'll definitely be making this frosting again!
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November 21, 2010

Love is in the Air


The boys enjoyed a beautiful fall afternoon in the backyard after church today.  And love filled the air.  As challenging as parenting is at times, these boys bring us such incredible joy.  James and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

The amazing thing is when the Lord looks at His children, He probably thinks the same thing.  Even despite how pig-headed, stubborn, and just plain stupid we are, He is ever so patient with us.  And He loves us still.

Tonight at bedtime, this was our prayer for the boys:

Lord,

You are good, kind, and gracious.  How great and wide and deep is Your love!  Help us to know this with all of our hearts.  And would you shape CJ and Nathan to become men who follow after you above all else?  May Jesus be their greatest treasure and may their lives exemplify this.  Protect them from the lies that the material things and "stuff" of this world will satisfy.  Protect them from falling into the trap of chasing after the American dream and believing that this is life's chief goal.  It is a mere chasing of the wind.  Let them invest their time, heart, and energy in the things of eternal value.

And we pray humbly that you would start by working in our hearts to exemplify this for our children.

We give praise, glory, and honor to you, the King of kings.  One day ALL men of every tribe and tongue will bow down and worship the name of Jesus.  Oh, how we long for that day.

In Your grip,
Amen
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November 19, 2010

Easy Breezy Gift Bags

{ gift bags that take less than a minute to make! }
I wanted to find a really simple way to make gift bags - no fuss, no mess.  So I did a search on google for "how to make gift bags out of cardstock paper" and found this at Homemade Gifts Made Easy!  This is truly the easiest craft project ever!  All you need is a square piece of cardstock paper (I personally like the double-sided paper - it gives the bag a nice color contrast). 

The instructions on the Homemade Gifts page are well done and easy to follow, but here's a quick summary:

1.  Start with a square sheet of cardstock paper.
2.  Fold the paper in half to form a triangle.
3.  Take the right corner and fold it so it touches the edge of the paper.
4.  Do the same thing with the left corner.
5. Take the inside of the top flap and tuck it into the outside bottom flap (this is a slight variation from the Homemade Gift site).
6.  And voila!  Gift bag complete.


I embellished the bags with floral fabric applique (available at craft stores) which added a nice decorative touch.  All in a matter of 5 minutes.  It doesn't get any easier than this!   These would be great for party favors.  My two-year-old enjoyed eating popcorn out of them.  :)

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November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

{ pumpkin + maple + heath toffee bits = perfect combination for the holidays! }
A few of my favorite things about Thanksgiving involve pumpkin pies, pumpkin cheesecakes, pumpkin bread . . . anything and everything pumpkin!

So why not pumpkin cupcakes?  I found the perfect recipe from Ina Garten.

But I'll let you in on a little secret.  I cheated and used this:




And it turned out moist and delicious.  So if you're short on time or just like shortcuts, here's the modified and simpler recipe (yields 12 cupcakes):


Pumpkin Cupcakes

Ingredients
  • Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread Mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the ingredients.  Using an ice cream scoop, divide the batter into a muffin tin with cupcake liners (I fill the cup 2/3 full).  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Place the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely.  Spread the cupcakes with maple frosting and sprinkle with chopped Heath bits.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (I normally use a little less so the frosting isn't too sweet)
Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Then you can decorate with these.  Enjoy!

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November 15, 2010

Cupcake Flags

{ pumpkin cupcakes for a baby shower }
I am always on the lookout for ideas on how to decorate cupcakes beautifully.  I love the idea of cupcake flags and decided to try my hand at making my own.   It's actually quite simple and such an easy way to add a decorative touch to any festivity.

Here's a list of the supplies needed to make 20 flags (available at any craft store like Michael's or AC Moore):


* Cardstock paper - 3 sheets ($14.99 for a pad of 50 sheets - used 50% off Michaels coupon so got a great deal - or you can purchase sheets individually ranging from $.49-$.99/page)
* Decorative stickers - 2 packs ($1.99/each)
* 4" Lollipop sticks - 20 ($2.00 for 50 sticks)
* Decorative paper punch (retails at $14.99 but used coupon, so again, another great deal)
* Glue stick (.$49)



(1) To get started, use the paper punch to punch out shapes in the cardstock paper (I used a 2" scalloped circle paper punch to make flowers).  You'll need two pieces of paper punch for each flag so punch out 40 flowers.








(2) Now take the glue stick and glue the back sides of the flower shapes.

(3) Then take a lollipop stick and press it down onto one of the glued sides.  If you want taller flags, then just place the stick lower on the paper.

(4) Put the second flower shape on top and then press down on all the sides.  Make sure the stick is secure and in place.  There may be a slight opening on the top, but don't worry about that.  I intentionally left the top unsealed (believe me, no one's going to notice or make a big deal if they do).

(5) Finally, we come to the fun part!  Decorate the flags with stickers!   I only decorated one side, but if you really want to go all out, you can decorate both.

And voila!

Before you know it, you've got a whole set of adorable, unique cupcake flags!  This is a great project to do with the kids, so let them in on the fun!

In the next post, I'll share the recipe for the pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting featured at the top.
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November 11, 2010

The Tale of CJ the Train and Princess A

Once upon a time, there was a little train engine named CJ.  CJ the Train was a very happy engine full of spunk and energy.  He was quite content being a lone engine.


That was until one day, he met the beautiful Princess A.   He wanted to befriend her, but he wasn't sure how.  So he thought and thought and thought, and then, it hit him!

"I know!  I'll win the princess over by showering her with sweets from all the land!"  So he searched high and low all over the kingdom of Great Bergen Mall Land to find these rare and treasured goodies.  In the end, however, he was only able to find a sticker and a tootsie roll. 

"I have so little to offer her," the engine sadly thought as he looked into his bag.

And yet, Princess A had been deeply moved by the effort, determination, and persistence CJ the Train had exhibited.  He had gone to all the ends of the kingdom . . . for her.


It melted her heart, and they became the best of friends.


1 comments

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Nate

{ nate at 6 months }

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Nate
(to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)

Tinkle, tinkle little Nate
Sprinkle time just couldn't wait?
In the bath with water clean
Is not the time for tinkling!
Tinkle, tinkle little Nate
Next time won't you hold and wait?














1 comments

November 8, 2010

Curious Nate

{ momo (auntie), what you doing there? }

{ what?  raking leaves?  let me check it out. }

{ so how does this whole raking thing-a-ma-jig work? }

{ ooh, like this? }

{ piece of cake!  i can do it with one hand. }

{ that's enough hard work for today. }
 
{ now time to play! }
 
{ see you later! }

1 comments

November 5, 2010

Beauty Out of Chaos

{ the chaos }

{ the beauty created }

{ the joy to be had }
* * *
There is a wonderful analogy here as I think about the mess and chaos of life.   What good could possibly come from these things?

God has a plan.  He will take the mess and brokenness of life and make beauty out of it.  And joy will be ours.

The real beauty is He's already accomplished this.  

On the cross. 

Through Jesus. 

For us.

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November 1, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

We celebrated a very dear friend's 40th birthday this past weekend.  We hosted a quaint and intimate dinner at our home.  My sister-in-law, Jane (her pseudonym), cooked up an amazing Korean beef and potato dish.  Everyone inhaled it.  We had other traditional Korean fare, as well, which was ordered from a caterer.

Instead of buying a cake, I decided to make coconut cupcakes.  Another friend of ours made these for CJ's 2nd birthday party, and they were amazing! 

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe from Ina Garten)

INGREDIENTS:
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (don't make the mistake I have and get low-fat; it'll change the texture of the cupcake)
  • 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
For the frosting:
(I used a different recipe to get a thicker frosting which is better for decorating)
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (I always cut the sugar in half, so I only used 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.


I decided to add the pink flowers to add a decorative touch and make the cupcakes prettier!  They're easy to make with a Wilton Large Star Decorating Tip 1-M.  I'm hoping to post up a step-by-step how-to in the coming weeks.  But this week will be devoted to another big project I'm working on (stay tuned for that).
 

And what's a party without some good wine?  As a complement to the cupcakes, I purchased what else, but Cupcake wines.  These are a recent new fave (and they're only $8.99/bottle).  I particularly enjoy the Cabernet Sauvignon.

We had such a fabulous time!  And we loved celebrating the life of a sister and friend we dearly treasure! S, you are an amazing blessing to us all!
 

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