Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 31 - Cake Wounds

So the journey I had making the Angry Birds cake was not without incident. I really didn't do much (by way of injury) but I did burn my arm, lol. I swear - I bake a lot, lol. So I'm not a complete novice when it comes to hot pans and stuff, lol. But I had STUPIDLY forgot to put crisco or anything in the pan first before putting the batter in. Total face palm moment - trust me, lol. So when it came out of the oven, I didn't want to let it cool and get more firm on the pan. I wanted to get it out of there as soon as I could. I had my oven mits on and all that.

I don't think I can describe just how I did this, but I was trying to let the pan lean towards me so that the cake would carefully & softly fall out and onto my arms. Well - the cake didn't come out completely, and it held onto the pan - and the whole thing came down. The end of the mit left my arm exposed and it made contact with the pan. Instant burn! :(

LUCKILY - it wasn't straight out of the oven. I let it cool a bit (trying to decide if I should get the cake out then or wait). So it didn't seem like a big burn. However, by the end of the day, I knew it was a decently bad burn. I even bandaged it up so it would be rubbed on the blanket while I slept.

And a couple days later, it just kept getting darker and darker, lol. Here is my lovely burn as evidence to my stupidity, lol:

That's from the square pan I used - you can see the corner of it where it bends. Aren't I smart!? :P Okay - that's it for January! Yay me!! Moving on next to February!! :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 30 - Fun On The Wii

So for Liam's birthday, I decided to get him a game that was specifically meant for him. I have been looking for months (ever since we got the Wii) and nothing struck me as specifically meant for children under 4 or 5. There was one that was carnival games, but I just wasn't sure about that. We got Mario Kart with the system, and he had issues with that game as well (he gets turned out every time and ends up going backwards until the game ends because everyone else has finished the race, lol).

Okay - so I made up my mind to just get something. I was left with Christmas leftovers at Walmart (my goodness the shelves were bare!!) and I narrowed it down to two race type games.

The first one - Superstar Kartz is really similar to Mario Kart. Like - pretty much the same game with different characters. And that was the appeal - it had characters that Liam knew & loved. The second game looked like a crash n derby type game - where you just slam into your competitors until only one is left standing. And as you can see - it stars Sponge Bob.

I ended up going with the first one (even though it was $10 more) MAINLY becase my biggest pet peeve with Sponge Bob is the voices from the show. That whining and stupid laughter -- drives me bonkers!! I'm pretty sure that is all in the game, and I was not okay with that, lol. However, part of me thinks I should have gone with Sponge Bob because Superstar Kartz is honestly harder than Mario Kart. Not by much, but it's harder to get & maintain first place. Not a big deal - but I was hoping for a game that was geared towards a younger audience.

Ah well - he'll grow into it, right? :)

So today's photo was him playing it for the first time. Even though he died a LOT and never even finished all three laps, lol - he did seem to have a blast - and that is what counts :)

Almost caught up! Yay!! Onto the next post. See you then! ~Jen

Angry Birds Fondant Cake

Here is my journey into my very first attempt ever at a fondant cake. I had some huge successes, and some huge failures - and I wanted to share the process I took to make my cake. I'm not saying my way is thee way, but I do think I had a decent cake in the end, and a beginner might learn something from my journey :)

Here is a quick look at what I made:

And here's how I made it! I'm a complete and utter newbie with this stuff. I never even knew about crumb coating (what a flipping AWESOME trick that is!!). So I'm sure I did stuff wrong, but in the end - my results were what mattered :) That and the smile on my son's face :)

Alright. Step one for me was research. I started a Pinterest board and collected anything and everything I thought I would need. Inspiration for cake designs. Step-by-step tutorials on making the birds. Fondant information. Covering a cake with fondant. And so much more. You can check out my research HERE :)

Getting my things together, I decided to just go with Walmart's cheap fondant. I didn't learn about marshmallow fondant until too late, and I just stuck with my original plan. Besides, I live in a teeny-tiny town, and Walmart is my only option for shopping, and they were lacking in gel dye colors, and I didn't have time to order any. I also decided to just use a box cake - again to keep things simple. I don't feel like I need to prove anything by making everything from scratch, so box cakes are fine with me :)

ALSO!! There are lots of other gadgets that you will need. There are LOTS of things that you can buy - but you should also know that there are LOTS of things around the house that can do just as good!!

Fondant smoother: Was this necessary? For me - yes. I found it at Walmart for I think $5 and it really helped me cover the cake with fondant. Not so much the smoothing of the top - but it helped get the edges down quickly, and smoothly. And the stress that came with covering the cake was enough - I couldn't imagine doing it without one of these:

Fondant Roller: I looked at these, but I couldn't force myself to spend $6 on a roller that was only 6 inches long. So I just used my teflon coated rolling pin (which worked great for the non-stick, but also had a hard edge). You see - I didn't realize that the rounded edges on the fondant roller left no marks in the fondant while flattening it out. I was worried, but I will say that when it came time to cover the cake - I didn't see one single line on the fondant from the roller. So get one or not, but I don't think I need it (not now anyways).

Fondant sculpting tools: I'm really pretty sure I would have picked this up IF it was sold individually. I had a hard time justifying $20 on a set (similar to the one pictured below) when all I wanted was one. In the end, I ended up using my fingers, an exacto-knife and a small (REALLY small tipped) paint brush. Oh and a straw, lol (I'll explain later).

Water Brush: this one just made me giggle. Walmart wanted to charge $5 or $6 for a brush (that was too large in my opinion) that held water and was used to glue the fondant pieces together. Why would I spend that much when I could use my own brush!? And I did use mine - and I can't imagine doing this cake without it. Here's a photo of one I had (might be a little smaller). I do paint by number and you need a really small brush for fine detail. I used that as well as the butt end of it to push things down and shape them when I could. And a small bowl of water completes it all - and I never felt like I was missing anything important :)

Making & Storing Fondant Decorations
First things I researched were how far in advance can I start making stuff. I learned some important information. Since fondant isn't refrigerated, you can make them a few days in advance. You should NOT refrigerate them because the moisture will make them sticky and lose their firmness (not good if you've made something that needs to keep it's shape). The other trick is to NOT put them in a sealed container. That will also make them soften up, and designed decorations need to keep their shape. You need to keep them in a cool, aerated and darkened area. On the opposite side of that - if you want them to be bendable when applied to the cake, then I would say you should put them in some tupperware with a lid on to keep them soft and pliable.

Day 1 - Thursday
Our party was Sunday night, and I anticipated the cake taking a couple days. One day for characters and one day for cake. And then I'd have a 3rd day for mistakes (SOOO glad I had that extra day!!).

I started with the birds on day one. I found a couple tutorials that showed step by step how they made their red bird. So I used that to get a feel for it all (Tutorial One and Tutorial Two -- well bummer, looks like the original blog post is gone. However, the image is not -- here's the pin I have from that blog. I used it to help me decide how to design my little fellas. Tutorial Two Photo).

I pulled from both of those, and merged them into my own creations.

To cut out the white circles, I used the lid to my vanilla flavor. It didn't cut cleanly, so I had a little stringy stuff on the edges and I just used scissors to cut it off. And to get the fondant an orange color (I was working with black, brown, white, red, yellow, dark green & dark blue) I mixed the red and yellow and white until I was happy with the color (I used very little red)

And my trick for the eyes!! I saw it on one site - I used a straw. It was the perfect size for the eyes. I never took a pic of the straw - but I did find one here (you can see my paint brush in the background too - blurry but it's there):

After getting such great results with the red birds, I moved onto the black ones. To make the grey - I used black & white and then a little blue (the black was green based, and I needed to add some blue to counteract that). Some examples I found show a weird triangle cut out of the grey part of the eye - I didn't like that. I also changed mid way through to use yellow for the beak instead of orange. And I also decided to cut the beak to have a top & bottom (I just used the knife for that and carefully cut inwards).

Moving on - it was time for the blue & yellow birds. I was having so much fun I didn't take many photos, lol. For the blue guys - they have orange under their eyes. I just made a circle and cut them in half. I put the orange & white parts of the eyes together first before applying them to the birds. And for the yellow guy, I played around thinking to make it more of a hard triangle like the game - but I really love the cone shape that I saw, and I LOVE how he turned out (he's my favorite of the bunch, lol). The only thing I forgot was his butt feathers.

To make his hair (and the hair & butt feathers for the white bird). I made a triagle in black, cut it with scissors into three pieces and then rounded each pieces with my fingers. The pointy end at the bottom is what will go into your bird.

Lastly was the white bird. I was kinda nervous with him cuz the black fondant can stain really easy. And working on a white bird - I was afraid to make him dirty. First - his beak was different. To make that, I made a small circle and shaped it like a little egg. Then I flattened the back end to put it up against the bird. Then I cut the beak in half like normal. The white part of the eyes ended up being doublely thick compared to the other birds since the black showed through so much. Putting another layer of white up fixed that problem. And for the weird purple that usually is on his eye - I decided to use a more flesh tone and put it on his cheek (I hate how the white bird looks injured/sick with the purple part. Mine just looks mean I think, lol)

And that was day one. I worked from about noon till 10pm. I was kinda shocked how time consuming these little guys could be. Before I finished, I made up the green fondant for the pigs and called it good.

To make the light green you see, I used that little chunk of dark green that you can see is missing and then equal parts of white & yellow until I got the desired color I wanted. The next day - I ended up doubling this and it made four pigs and any extra pieces for their bodies that they needed.

Day 2 - Friday
I had so much fun the first day that I started bright and early on day 2. I got the green all made up and shaped out my pigs. I found a great image online and used it as a guide while making them. Here - I'll show you the images of everything and then go into some detail after:

I kept each pig in their spot. I made the snout & lips and ears for each one and put them by their corresponding pig. To do the black part (in the ears and in the nose) - I decided to not put the black on top. But instead, I took a toothpick and kinda punched down/flattened a little where I wanted the black. Then I put black in there and made it fit. This was for both the snout and ears.

The eyebrows where tricky. I didn't want to use a food coloring marker (nor did I have one) so I just rolled out some fondant REALLY tiny and stuck it on there. Worked out great. The mustache was done really similar to the hair on the white & yellow birds, only I did less rounding to it and kept it more square. And there's an image for the helmet below. I started with an oblong size grey piece and kept getting smaller and smaller till I found that a small round shape worked best).

I finished up with those guys before noon. So it was time for the cake. I toyed with the idea of shape cakes for a long time. Square, rectangle, round - I wasn't sure. After researching, I was convinced that covering a square cake would be just as easy as a round (evidence here - fyi, it's a video). So I baked two cakes. Well three (but two cake mixes). Two square cakes and then a small round cake. I stacked the two square cakes on each other and covered them in some chocolate butter cream frosting I made. The small round one was cut up and made into a smaller square that would be placed on top of the big square. And that ended my day (there are no photos - and you'll learn why next, lol).

Day 3 - Saturday
I started out the day pretty nervous. I wasn't sure how easy or hard it would be to cover a cake with fondant, and I had a feeling this could make or break the entire cake. I mean - without the cake, then what!? (Okay - I actually JUST came up with an idea of using cupcakes - good idea to keep in mind should the cake covering be too much).

Nervous about the cake, I decided to work on the rest of the sling shot. I had started it yesterday and let it firm up over night. Unfortunately, I had a hard time getting the black stuff shaped & attached, and I ended up snapping one of the arms off the sling shot :( I added some water and stuck the two broken pieces back together and prayed it would be able to be worked on later that night after it dried.

It was tricky, but I was able to get it done. I ended up working on it with it laying down. I put the black circled around the top and let that dry. I made the cup part of the rubber band and let it dry. And then I just made a long snake and stuck it on there and hoped it would work. I didn't know if it would until the day of the party that I picked it up and put it on the cake. It worked great - that broken arm never broke again :)

(The yellow arrow is pointing to where it broke)

I did one more little project before tackling the cake. I decided to go with a nest to hold a couple little eggs. I've seen a frying pan, and I thought the nest would be funner/easier to make.

Covering the cake
Then it was time to cover the cake (which is square if you don't remember). I'm pretty sure I did everything right. The only things I would do differently were add more vegetable oil before I started and use less powdered sugar (which I did with my 3rd try). But it just did not work! I flattened out the fondant and quickly put it on the cake. I flattened out the top and carefully pushed down on the top edge. Almost instantly, it started to crack -- and so did my confidence and composure.

Seeing the huge holes I was making, I took the fondant off the cake and prepared to try again. I don't think I did much different on my 2nd try. I believe I tried to use less powdered sugar, but you have to use it to keep it from sticking to the counter. Note -- I did clean off the butter cream frosting that stuck to it with a wet, warm cloth. I saw one person say to just mix it into the fondant, but there was a LOT and I didn't think the chocolate color would mesh well.

2nd try - more cracks almost instantly. And don't get me started with trying to get the fondant to successfully wrap around the corners of my square cake. By now I was in tears at my failure, frustrated and defeated :( After many tears, my hubby convinced me that there was plenty of time to make a new cake and try again. This time - it would be round.

This time I also fixed the recipe for the butter cream frosting that I used for a crumb coating. The first recipe, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the chocolate that made it taste really off. I honestly don't think it was the lemon juice either. After researching a bit more, I found that an overly buttery taste meant there wasn't enough powdered sugar and to also substitute half of the butter with shortening. I also did away with the chocolate & lemon just to be on the safe side. Sure enough - when I doubled the sugar, it tasted gooooooood! Just like my mom used to make it!!

Butter Cream Frosting (used for crumb coating)
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 2 Tablespoons milk

And there's my covered cake!! Look at that thing, will ya? Isn't it gorgeous!! SOOO smooth and perfect! There was one minor defect in the top (a random hole that didn't even go all the way through to the cake) that was easily covered by the next layer!

Okay - things I did different: I read that you can get rid of the dryness by adding some vegetable oil and/or microwaving it for a few seconds. I did both. Then I wore some gloves (the kind a nurse would wear) and that kept it from sticking to my hands (aka - less powdered sugar required). And I also use the least amount of powdered sugar that I could to keep it from sticking to the counter. Quick like lightning, I picked it up and plopped it down (carefully, lol) and began on the edges immediately. It went on like I prayed it would - like I always thought it would!!! I mean - not ONE crack appear on the edge!! It was on in a few seconds - just like I saw in all the videos I searched for!!!

After that, things went smoothly. I grabbed the little rectangle cake I made for my first design, cut the corners to round it out and decided to cover it in grey and make it rock. It had no real hard parts left to it - the cake was really REALLY soft, so it came off looking kind of lumpy. BUT - I thought that added to the rock I was going for - and I didn't bother trying to smooth it out.

I saw a cake with grass used to cover a lower edge of a cake and I liked that idea. So I cut up some grass to go around the rock. Please know that the grass is NOT one long piece. It was probably 5 or 6 different pieces. It was easier to control them when putting them on the cake.

By now it was pretty late. But I wasn't ready to stop yet. I didn't like the brown strip I did around the bottom of the green cake, so I came up with something else. I didn't have enough brown left over to cover the whole board the cake was on, but I was able to do it around the cake. The board I got (which sucked by the way - they wouldn't lay flat! $4 at Walmart - what did I expect, lol) had more than one. So I took an extra one and cut it in half. Then I measured 5 points around half the cake and marked it on the extra board. Then I just guesstimated the circle arc of the cake and cut it out. I now had a pattern for where I wanted the brown to go around the cake. I put a little bit of the butter cream frosting on the board and laid the brown down. I also decided to do rocks around the base of the cake. At first I was going to make them round and make sure they were smooth - then I remember that rocks were far from perfect, lol.

I initially made the rocks because I was going to do Liam's name in rocks. But when I did them around the base, I changed my mind. I decided to do wood blocks since his name was short (and didn't have bendy letters, lol). The lines were done with the knife and the M and the A have small pieces of toothpicks helping it stay together (mainly because I didn't want to wait and let the water glue it). I also didn't go the extra step to make the wood straight and have sharp edges (it was around 3am in the morning by now, lol), so that might be something you want to do if you decide to do something similar.

Day 4 - Sunday
The day of the party!! Most everything was done. I decided to add some flowers to spruce up the cake some more. I used the straw to make a yellow center circle. Then I placed that circle and used the straw to make the petals. You can see in the photo - I cut a small piece of the straw off, and then I also cut a small strip out of the piece so that it wasn't a full circle. Also - when pulling out the flower, I got little stringys that kinda stuck on. My brush and some water cleaned that up easily (it cleans up any kind of stringys that happened, or crumby edges that happened from cutting - like on the grass).

Finishing Up
After that I was done. All that was left was "gluing" on all the characters and decor. I also changed where I put the sling shot (it was covering up some of my pigs) and I put it on the side. I used a mound of green with a hole in it to prop it up.

And the party was a huge success!! Even the cheapo fondant that I thought would taste like feet was loved by the kids. I later tried some myself - I actually really liked it with the cake. Now a full bite of it (like from a bird) was a little too rich for me. But with the cake was great :)

That's it!! That is my 4 day journey into making my very first fondant cake!! Despite the tears, lol - it was a great experience -- one I hope to repeat soon (minus the tears, lol). I enjoyed it SO much!! If you've read the whole thing - I think you deserve an award, lol. I hope I've helped in some small way. Any Questions - please leave them in the comments and I will try to help!!!

And I now return you to your regularly scheduled P365 blog :P

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 29 - Bird Carnage

**Note** To see how I made my Angry Bird cake & characters, go HERE. To read my P365 entry, continue on :)

Well, today was the big day!! After having little sleep last night, I was excited, but uber tired, lol. I got up and got ready for church. Liam was excited because he was going to get sung to today in front of the church :)

I put the finishing touches on the cake (I decided to add some flowers and nervously glued all the birds down. Up until now, everything had only been sitting on the cake. Now it was "permanent") :D

After church, we came home to bide our time. The party wasn't until 6:30pm, so we had some time to kill. I wrapped his presents, played online. Finally, we were just too antsy, and we headed to Las Cruces. The 45min drive was slightly uncomfortable (holding the cake on my lap) but we made it there okay.

We walked around Target for a while (we don't have one of those here, so I always visit everytime we go to Cruces cuz I miss that store like crazy, lol). Finally we went to Chuck E Cheese. Tom's coworker and his family were already there (they were late invitees - honestly didn't think anyone would drive to Cruces for a bday party). I'm SO glad they came. They are all so awesome - I hope to get better acquainted in the future :)

The party went GREAT!! Chuck E Cheese's was pretty full when we got there, but it cleared out pretty quick (thus why we do parties at 6:30pm on a Sunday, lol). The kids played and so did the big people, lol. The cake was a huge hit! Both to look at - and to taste!! Liam had a great time opening all his presents. And he loved his one-on-one time with Chuck-E. All in all - it was the best party yet!! And the cake was a HUGE success!!

Once again, I'm saving the cake photos for the big post about me making my cake. Besides - I just love this photo of Liam munching down on one of the birds. I know that cheapo fondant from Walmart might taste nasty, but the kids didn't seem to mind at all. They ate the birds with glee!

That's it for today!! Next I'm doing up my post about how I made my Angry Bird Characters as well as the cake!! :) XOXO! ~Jen

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 28 - Dressing Up & A Mental Break Down

**Note** To see how I made my Angry Bird cake & characters, go HERE. To read my P365 entry, continue on :)

Well, today was one giant emotional roller coaster!! It started off kinda crappy. I got up, eager to get back at my cake. I knew today could make or break me cuz it was time to cover the cake in fondant. It looked pretty easy online, but I had no clue if it would be like that.

I put it off a bit and decided to finish up my props - mainly the sling shot. And here is where things started to fail me. While trying to add the rubber band part of the sling shot, I broke one of the arms. Not a big deal I suppose - except that I had let it set up all night so it was more firm today. And I'm lazy enough that I didn't want to start from scratch with it (especially if the possibilities of me breaking it again were high, lol). So I wet down the two ends and "glued" them back together and set it aside hoping it would work.

I also settled on what to cover the cake with. Up until now, I've toyed with all sorts of ideas. Brown cover with grass on the top like THIS cake. Maybe just green like THIS cake. Blue like THIS one. Random colors like THIS one? It had me overwhelmed. But in the end, I decided to just cover the main cake in green and go from there. But first I needed more green & yellow, so hubby nicely went to the store for me to get more!

While he was gone, I started a new layout. I needed to get it done, and I figured that was as good a time as any. A while later, Tom showed back up and I went back to work. It was now or never, right?

And from here - things got to their worst. I flattened out the fondant and went to cover the cake. Almost instantly the edge started cracking and then pulling apart. Nothing I did helped. I freaked and took off the fondant, deciding to try again.

By now, the tears were already falling. I was in full on panic mode. I wasn't gonna be able to do this :(

Round two went about the same - cracks almost instantly. And don't get me started on how the corners would NOT cover properly (fyi: I have a square cake, not round). I was assured by many a video that covering a square cake was as simple as a round cake. Seeing my miserable attempt made me sure that I was just a failure at fondant cake covering :(

Hubby helped me calm down and convinced me that making a new cake (a round one) was worth a shot. I cleaned the butter cream frosting off the green fondant, stored it and went to work on the 2nd cake.

Fast forward to fondant covering attempt #3: I was scared out of my mind by now. It was night time and I was fast running out of options. I had joked in the beginning that if I sucked at the cake part, that I would just buy a cheap sheet cake from Walmart and put my birds & stuff on it. I really really didn't wanna do that!!

This go round, I used as little powdered sugar as I could so that the fondant wouldn't dry out (and thus crack on the edges of the cake). I also put a LOT of vegetable oil in it and warmed it in the microwave before I started so that it was as soft and as pliable as it could be. And guess what!? I covered that round cake like a fricking pro!!!! I mean - it was so easy! Square cake same as a round cake? Pishaw! Yeah right!!!!

And since I'm writing this AFTER the actual day, I can say that I stayed up until around 3am finishing most of the cake. I decided to add rocks to the bottom and those dang rocks took a while to make, lol. Plus I did Liam's name in wood. I wanted to put Happy Birthday somewhere, but that never happened. AND I successfully finished the sling shot (and I think it looked good) :D

Today's photo isn't actually about the cake (I'm saving those for my full cake process post). During one of the down times I had today (usually trying to get my layout finished) Liam came running out dressed up like this - and it made me laugh (and considering all the tears I shed - laughter felt great!!)

And before I finish up my mini-novel, I was able to finish my layout too!! I think it turned out way cute - and I'm kinda proud that I used pink (my least favorite color) on a boy layout and it doesn't come off as girly to me, lol :)

Full credits can be found by clicking on the image!

Whew!! Sorry so long! I wanted to get my journey all recorded. My first cake was challenging and an absolute blast! I can't wait for the party tomorrow and I can't wait till I get to make another fondant cake :D

XOXO! ~Jen

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 27 - Gotta Love Frosting

**Note** To see how I made my Angry Bird cake & characters, go HERE. To read my P365 entry, continue on :)

Today started earlier than yesterday. Yesterday - I was pretty tired, and I'll be honest, I was nervous to start and probably procrastinated a bit. But today - no way! I was so excited to get back at it. Bringing the birds to life was so much fun that I couldn't wait to tackle the pigs!!!

Right off the bat, I realized I didn't have enough green, so I made some more. I was done with all the pigs before lunch time. They were an absolute blast to make!! They turned out cuter than I thought they would!! :) After I made Liam lunch, I decided to start the cakes. I went lazy with those and just used box cake. After much thought, I decided to go with a square cake, with a little rectangle on top to give it a second tier.

While those cooked, I made a nest and some eggs and started the sling shot (which is what Liam requested the most. I still have NO clue where I'm gonna stick the sling shot, but since Liam won't stop mentioning it, I'm gonna have to make it work, lol).

After I got the cakes done and shaped, I went ahead and made the butter cream frosting that was going to be used for the crumb coating. After finishing, I gave it a taste and wanted to cry. It just tasted off.... Kinda over buttery, and the lemon I added I assumed screwed it up (the lemon juice - which was from a fresh lemon - was for a recipe I found and sounded good). Tom insisted it tasted great and the boys seemed to like it.

After that, I covered the cakes in butter cream, and set them in the fridge to harden & set over night. I thought about making more stuff, and decided that I would just save it for tomorrow. I almost worked on the sling shot, but it was still a little too bendy for my comfort. I wanted to give it the night to firm up more so I could work on it easier :)

One more thing! Kristin came out with a kit tonight, and I had to get something done before going to bed so she'd have a layout from me to use for advertising on the sale tomorrow (plus I didn't wanna have to stress about it tomorrow. Besides - I also got a kit from Julie and will probably be working on that layout tomorrow). But you'd be so proud!! I'm a SLOOOOW scrapper! Very OCD about it all, and that usually means hours of work (not constant work, but slow, thought processing work). Tonight I pumped out this layout in 2 HOURS!! That's rare for me - and I think it turned out great!!

It's a remake of this layout (never liked how it turned out! Always felt off to me). And this is what I came up with (used the photo & journaling, the rest was new thinking for the photos & theme of the layout)

Full credits can be found by clicking on the image!

Tomorrow I cover the cake in fondant and finish everything up!! Wish me luck!! ~Jen :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 26 - My First Fondant Cake

**Note** To see how I made my Angry Bird cake & characters, go HERE. To read my P365 entry, continue on :)

Today was the day I finally dove into Liam's birthday cake (not literally, lol). I've always wanted to try my hand at making a fondant cake, but honestly - could never afford to do it. Well that is no longer the case (yay!). And while playing around on Pinterest one day, I came across some of the most adorable Angry Bird cakes. And guess who saw? I'll give you a hint - the cake is for him, lol.

So today, I started in. I researched how early I can make stuff, and since fondant doesn't (actually - can't without getting sticky & nasty) be refrigerated, it can be made into decorations and left out. So today was all about the birds! I found a couple step by step instructions for the red bird, so I started with him to get the feel for molding fondant into characters. Took me a bit to get the hang of it, but it was really pretty easy :)

I continued on with the rest of the birds. Then, after Tom got home from work - Liam wanted to do Burger King for dinner since it's his birthday today (OH! I forgot to say that! LOL - today is Liam's actual birthday. His party isn't till Sunday). I ate healthy there - I had their yummy chicken salad. OMG so tasty!! Yay for staying healthy! :D

I finished up the last bird tonight around 11pm. I'm so dang tired, lol. I also got the green fondant all ready for the pigs (the only green I could find was way dark, so I mixed some white & yellow and was able to get the right color). So tomorrow is all about the pigs and then any other decor that I need (ie: the sling shot for one).

Today's photo is a cute moment where the boys came in to see my progress. Liam BEFORE the photo was all cute and laughing like crazy at the bird, lol. But once I went around with my camera Liam AFTER became this kinda fake happy and is only looking at the bird cuz i told him to, lol. Oh well - still cute.

Be back tomorrow with more tales of my first attempt at a fondant cake! Wish me luck!! XOXO! ~Jen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 25 - 2 Years As A Non-Smoker!! :)

Last night I hit my official 2yr mark as a non-smoker! I was pretty excited to hit that anniversary :) The road wasn't easy in the beginning, but each day was a little easier (and the next even easier). I had to be willing to relearn how to deal with certain stresses (at first, it was a 10min shower - with or without clothes on, lol -- just to let the moment pass). After ... maybe a deep breath or two. If my hubby was getting on my nerves - I'd be up front with him and say "Gimme a moment" or "Give me 5min" (this was usually when I was being a bitch for no reason and just needed some time to find my center; find my calm). You have to be willing to acknowledge you're in the wrong (even if it's only to yourself, and not said out loud) and walk away from the fight (or whatever it's turned into) and calm down. Kids being a pain? Go to the bathroom. Even if you don't have to go-go, lol - just go in there and ... clean, or brush your hair, or put on some make up -- any amount of me time I could find.

Now - two years later, it's not even an issue. If anyone is smoking near me (even a block or two away) I can smell that crap on the air. It's horrible and makes me sick. You can just walk through it or near it - and that smell clings on you all the way home. It's insane how much it reeks! And it's insane how much I can smell, lol. I'm not thrilled to have my taste buds back - I'm a picky enough eater as it is, lol. But it is nice to be able to smell again. And it's even more wonderful to not smell like shit to my kids (pardon my french, but I smelled like effing shit! It was a HUGE motivator to finally stop!!). I can hug my babies close and know I don't reek. I know they won't cough from it. I know I won't feel guilty anymore about it.

Oh - and I can breath without pain! Hell yeah! LOL. I can take these huge, lung stretching breaths without anguish (followed by a hacking cough), lol. I challenge any smoker to do that and not cough like you're gonna lose a lung, lol.

I thought I'd share a post a did when I quit. The post itself was written about a month or two after I actually quit (cuz we didn't have internet) but the notes I put in there were done on the day - at the exact moment I wrote it. To this day, I wish I could have written more, but as you'll read (if you read it) -- writing about it caused me to have mini-panic/anxiety attacks, and I had to stop and go back into my Star Trek/Solitaire zone, lol.

That day was pretty tough, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It was the night before - that time between the 8pm mark and ... around 1am when I finally went to bed. That time was when I felt the most crazy. Like I would do just about anything for a smoke. The next day (because I was able to just do what I needed to do without much distraction) was quite a bit easier than I ever dreamed possible. And day 2 as a non-smoker was even easier. I tested myself on day 3 by hanging out with friends that were smokers. And I was able to handle that!! From there - all possibles became endless. The world before me opened up as never before, and I knew that the sky was the limit :)

Wrapping this up :D I finally decided on a photo to mark my non-smoking anniversary. I wanted to get a photo of how much a pack of cigarettes cost. I think when I quit, I was able to get a pack for around $5.00 (maybe $5.50). So when I saw my normal brand (Marlboro Menthol Light 100s) going for $7.14, I was pretty shocked (well, not too much cuz it has been 2yrs and the price had been rising pretty steadily while I was smoking). I just can't imagine spending that much daily for that (twice!! Hubby and I were both smokers and quit at the same time! That would have been over $14 a day for both of us)!! Thank you Lord for helping me find the strength to quit!!!! :)

Pardon the crappy cell phone pic -- I was in a hurry cuz I felt kinda silly taking the photo and wanted to hurry up. I only took one and didn't realize it was kind fuzzy :/

And with that, I end today! Tomorrow I'm starting in on Liam's birhday cake. It will be my first try at a fondant cake, and I have NO clue how it will go! I have high hopes and confidence that I'll be able to pull it off, but the doubt always has a way of making it's way into my mind :) Wish me luck! See you then!! XOXO!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24 - The Tickle Monster

Two years ago today, I smoked my very last cigarette. It was around 8pm some time. It was a rough evening, but with the help of my husband who was somehow able to bring me down from my panic, I made it and never had another drag!

I was gonna do a photo for that big accomplishment, but honestly I couldn't figure out what to photograph. If there was a way to do a before & after of my lungs - I'd totally share that! But alas, I left my magic xray machine back in Washington, lol :)

So, today's photo was a sweet little moment between Tom and the boys. He actually called out to me to get my camera so I could take a photo (yeah, that never happens, lol).

Love that photo - so cute! I love when they all play like this. That's it for today - see you tomorrow! ~Jen

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 23 - Crazy Clothes & Monday's AAM List

So Connor's school is raising money for a play. In exchange for a dollar, they were allowed to wear various things. Pajamas one day. A crazy hat on another. And the last day, today, was crazy clothes day. I wasn't sure what constituted "crazy" clothes, but I got some great ideas with a 5 second google search. And this is what I came up with:

He said he loved it - that his classmates got a kick out of it! I love how outgoing he is :) I think I would have been too shy to do this unless I was sure I had friend's dressing up too :)

And now, it's time for another All About Me list. I was under the impression that it was one blog hosting the weekly list themes, but I guess not. SOOOOO -- I'll just be going off my good friend Danielle's blog (where I found out about it anyways) -- Motherhood Truth.

Anyhoo - today's list was supposed to be a list of 10 things you want to do before you die. However, since I just did a post like that and shared my personal bucket list, I decided to skip this one and do a past one that she's done. My fave one to read (because I'm from Washington too and loved her list) was 10 things about your hometown. So that's what I'm doing:


1. The Rain
Yes, it rains. Quite a bit actually. But not nearly as much as one thinks. It's more that it's cloudy, but rain isn't always falling like people say. Having moved to the desert, I get asked a lot "But doesn't it rain all the time! I could never handle all that rain." Are you effing kidding me!? Water ain't gonna kill you (mostly, lol) ... not the way the damn heat here does! And I don't think I've ever heard someone say "Well, I would love to move to New York, but all that rain is just a deal breaker for me!" ((FYI: New York gets more rain then we do! Just sayin'!!))

2. The Greenery
I actually had this conversation yesterday. I found out someone from my church was from Battle Ground, WA. And apparently she doesn't miss it. I couldn't even fathom liking this hell hole over Washington. Her reasons for not liking it? All the rain (smh - tell me something new! Rain is too easy an answer!). The trees! WHAT?! I guess the trees and all that green are just too much for her. All the hills and trees - it blocks her view. Let me just say - that yes, we have trees (thank GOD!) and they can block stuff. But my God - get up on a hill, and what a view!! True enough - it's flatter than a pancake out here. But the view here? It's like death threw up all around me. I might be able to see for miles (which is what she said she loved), but I can't see crap worth seeing, so what's the point!! UGH! I seriously wanted to slap her (not that I ever would, it just made me ARGH when she said that, lol). I just can't understand someone liking this view over:

3. Coffee, oh yeah!
And I'm not talkin' 'bout Starbucks (which tastes like feet in my opinion). I'm talking about all the other options. You can't go through an intersection without seeing a coffee stand on the corner, lol. (Not really - but almost true, lol). My fave are actually the little mom & pops type shacks. They make the most nummiest of coffee! But if I wasn't near those shops, then my next stop was Dutch Bros. LOVE their coffee (so long as I get enough sweetener! It's pretty heavy).

4. Rivers
Trees, greenery, water - you can believe me when I say we have rivers. And I don't mean tiny streams or the kind of yuck you find down south (have y'all seen the patheticness that is the Rio Grande near Las Cruces? Here's one from above - yes, that brown trail is supposed to be the "Big Grand River" -- as if!!). Where I come from - my rivers are not only blue, but big! If you tried to swim the Columbia River, it wouldn't kill you cuz it's toxic, it'd kill you cuz of the massively fast currents swirling in it! It's an amazing river that only gets wider and more gorgeous when you move away from the city limits.

5. Mountains
I think Danielle said it best on her list: "Real ones guys. I have traveled some and what some parts of the country call "mountains" we call hills. So let me explain our definition of mountain. It has snow on it 10 months out of the year and it risks the chances of erupting at some point. Haha" -- Living in Deming NM, I live in one of those areas where the mountains in the back drop are more like decent size hills to me, lol. Mt. Saint Helens is a very common sight in my hometown. The big eruption of 1980 happened a year before I was born. But the photo below was the mini (yet significant) eruption that happened in 2005. It was amazing :)

6. Zoo Lights, Oregon

We have a pretty spectacular zoo only a few minutes from Vancouver. Well - the drive can be a little longer than that since the Terwilliger Curves are a pain (seriously Oregonians - learn to drive!!!). But it's located close enough! And is an awesome zoo! And in the winter time, they deck the place out with an astounding amount of lights. I tried to photograph it myself (and failed). And all the photos I found didn't really come close to showcasing the awesomeness that you feel while walking through this wonderland of lights. They're everywhere; all around you! It's like a land of glowing magic - and is absolutely breathtaking. It's also so cold that you swear you're getting frost bite, lol - but was so worth the experience!

7. Sternwheeler
I've been lucky enough to ride the Sternwheeler a couple times. It's a neat experience and one I love. I even got to eat a fancy-smancy dinner on there because of a company dinner party thing Tom got invited to. I'm sure there are many more sternwheelers out there, but there's only one (that I know of) in my hometown, and it's something the locals love.

8. Christmas Boats
I love my home at Christmas. Decorations are everywhere - there's a big tree in Portland - people aren't too afraid to say Merry Christmas (though, Happy Holidays are becoming more preferred since heaven help us if we offend someone for wanting them to be happy - argh!). And a local group of boat owners decorate their boats with lights and go up and down the river every night for a few weeks around Christmas time. I went down to the waterfront one year to see it up close and found myself not alone. There are always people out there, braving the freezing cold, to see the decorated boats.

9. The Coast
It's not technically my hometown, but it's still part of my home. The coast is an hour and a half away, and I love it there more than anywhere else. Seaside tends to be the most common destination. I love all the little shops they have there. And the coast is gorgeous and huge. Me & the family always drove there on the Oregon side, and then too the Washington side (a more winding, scenic route) back. The Astoria Bridge is crazy huge and fun to cross. Oh and there are two lighthouses so close to Astoria! I never realized how close. And the views are just Oh.Em.Gee!! That's part of why I love lighthouses - cuz they are always near the best viewpoints!! My fave is North Head Lighthouse because it was the first one I ever saw :) Here is Seaside:

10. Columbia River Gorge, Scenic Highway
This Gorge is an area that I swear, if I make my mind go blank, I can pretend that I'm in Ireland or Scotland. The land there is so lushly green, the water so blue. I can't get enough. The Gorge gets some nasty weather in the winter (that can really enhance the beauty if you're willing to risk the drive), but any other time of the year, and everywhere you look - pure gorgeousness!! Multnomah Fall (minus the snow, lol), Beacon Rock (which I've climbed to the top of), The Vista House (such a great view from up there!) -- all are wonderful! And my fave way of traveling is the old highway. We did that as a family a couple years back, and I loved it! I will say that the road scares me at times, lol - it's not meant for modern-sized cars, lol. It gets scary narrow sometimes, lol - and has these blind curves. But it was so worth it! :)

There's my list. Mostly scenic stuff, but yeah - that's what I remember most of my home. All the beauty that surrounds you! I miss it there so much. It makes my heart hurt and makes my eyes get all moist just thinking about it. I hate living here, but Tom having a job is my reward for living here!! And I thank God every day for his job!! I might miss home, but I don't miss being homeless and hopeless!!! :)

That's all for today!! See you tomorrow!!