Sunday, June 30, 2013

Quick Tip: Baby Bath Time

Keep shampoo from slipping down into your baby or toddler's eyes by swiping petroleum jelly over their eyebrows. This works for adults too!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rainbow Zebra Cake Tutorial

My step-daughter graduated from high school this year. (Yikes, I know!) She is a fun loving teenager and is also the first in her immediate family to graduate from high school (as opposed to earning a GED). To celebrate this monumental occasion, her mother and myself decided to throw her a party.  

My step-daughter loves anything purple or rainbow and anything with zebra stripes, and because she is aware of my love for baking and my history with making pretty phenomenal cakes (for a novice), she asked me to bake her graduation cake.
The trick is, she asked for a rainbow zebra stripe cake.  Yikes, again. I immediately hopped onto Pintrest and Google and found that all the images for rainbow zebra cakes were done using fondant.  I refuse to work with fondant as a matter of principle.  It tastes horrible and I prefer my cakes to be edible.  So herein lies my problem.  How do I make a rainbow zebra stripe cake WITHOUT using fondant??  Enter Mama Stepford.
My mother perused the interweb tirelessly until she found a rare (but quickly gaining popularity) method that would be fast, easy and most importantly, sans fondant.
Wilton has been the go to company for anything cake related for years.  I took all my courses through Wilton and all my personal baking supplies are Wilton as well, so it was only natural that Wilton would save my behind in this situation as well.  
I've made the cake!!

I started with a white cake base (easier to dye the batter a color of my choosing) and a simple vanilla frosting.  I dyed the batter various shades of purple, iced the cake and used Wilton Sugar Sheets to complete my look, along with Wilton Color Mist Spray.  The results, in my opinion, are quite fascinating.  
It was slightly time consuming, but only  because I had the added challenges of entertaining my 7 year old son, Kasey and 6 month old daughter, Lily. I used boxed cake mix, which is supposed to be a huge faux pas among bakers, but you will get zero complaints from me.  It was much easier to 'throw together' and as long as you use quality ingredients (top of the line vegetable oil, fresh cage free egg whites, and distilled water) the taste is impeccable.  
I mixed up my two boxes of mix (I made a three layer cake) and divided the batter into three bowls which I then used Wilton Gel Coloring to dye three different shades of purple.  I leveled the layers and then whipped my two jars of icing to expand their use. (Mix in a bowl on high speed for about 2 minutes). I iced the cake completely white and got to work on my sugar sheets. I used the Color Mist to spray rainbows directly onto the front side of the zebra sugar sheet and set them to dry for 20 minutes.  Once dry, I cut them to the appropriate lengths and pressed them to the cake.  To cover the white areas I simply dyed some of my frosting purple and used a Wilton 2D (I think) tip to pipe giant stars around the borders and voila...a rainbow zebra stripe cake. 
Check it out:

Pictured above are my ingredients. Boxed white cake mix, jarred white icing, various colors of Wilton Color Mist, Wilton Sugar Sheets in zebra print and of course, Wilton Zebra cake boards.

Opps, here is the Wilton Violet Gel Icing Color I used!

Here are the cakes after I separated and dyed the batter. Pre-bake, obviously, but the colors are almost identical post bake.

Iced three layers on zebra cake board...

This is the Sugar Sheet before lined with the Color Mist colors I used.

And the Sugar Sheet after.  I know, I know, I'm amazing!!

Beginning to place my Sugar Sheets. SO easy...just peel and gently press to not dry icing. OMG, right!? It IS amazing!! But, wait...there's more!

TA DA! A BEAUTIFUL and EASY rainbow zebra stripe cake!

Good to the last piece!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Three of Our Best Posts About the Fourth of July

With Independence Day just around the corner we wanted to remind you of some of our best posts we have written in the past to help you celebrate in style!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I just love cooking from as close to completely homemade as possible. This is an extension of a previous post I did last summer about canning your own homemade spaghetti sauce. My exception today is boxed tomato sauce and jarred minced garlic (because I hate my fingers to smell like garlic after using fresh that I had to peel!). I ended up, out of the pictured ingredients, using half of each red and green bell pepper, a heaping teaspoon of garlic, half of the onion, 6 Roma tomatoes, about 6 fresh basil leaves, and about a teaspoon of freshly minced flat parsley. A heaping teaspoon of oregano, a heaping teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and a small (very small) dash of red Cayenne pepper.


I put the onion and garlic in the pan first while I started cutting my peppers. I sauteed with a tablespoon of MCT coconut oil (liquid vs. the harder white coconut oil). I estimate the stove temperature was at medium to medium high (closer to medium though).

After cutting the peppers I sauteed all the peppers, onions, and garlic in the pan until they were slightly less crunchy. I didn't want to over cook them because I like a bit of texture to the finished sauce.

While all of that was sauteing, I cut up all of my tomatoes and fresh herbs.

After I sauteed the peppers, onion, and garlic, I added the freshly cut tomatoes. I added almost the entire container of Hunt's tomato sauce until it was as thick as this second picture.

I mixed in all the final ingredients of fresh parsley and basil, put a lid on the top and turned it down to 4. After it was at a light bubble for 40 minutes I turned it down to 2 for another 2 hours. As it cooks your tomato pieces are going to be less chunky, but your onion and peppers will maintain their shape.

I am going to enjoy this wonderful sauce later with some meatballs and angel hair spaghetti. It is also great served over steamed brocolli. It certainly makes vegetables more appealing to the kids!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Danger: Real drowning doesn't look like what you think...

One of the scariest things for a parent or onlooker to imagine while near any amount of water is for a person to be in danger and start to drown. I found an extremely important article that I feel everyone should read, especially since there are so many people near pools during the summer.

I copied some of the warning signs to look for from the article in the even you don't feel it important enough to read the original article (which you should!).

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs—vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

I have a personal connection with the article because, I too, once saved a person drowning and it is true that they do not look like what you would expect them to. There is no thrashing or splashing and very often they are not even able to vocalize they need help. A natural instinct when in danger in water is to try to put your arms straight out away from your body to try to help stabilize you and get you to float. When I did help the person, in life-threatening danger, they were bobbing up and down but they were unable to say anything or splash. I was able to see the top of their head within two inches of the surface of the water as well. Age does not play a factor in who can drown either.

According to much research done, the statistics show that the majority of drowning incidents occur right around parents that do not even realize what is happening. So please, share this information with everyone because there are so many lives that could be saved just in realizing you don’t have to look the way Hollywood portrays in movies- that a drowning is an animated splashing loud occurrence, but quite the opposite.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Scrapbook Paper Cone Wreath Tutorial

 I decided to make a summer wreath that would cost me next to nothing. I looked up a tutorial online to find a method for using scrap booking paper and found one that looked really cute.

Below is what I was supposed to be making...

I thought this wreath looked beautiful! The problem: I didn't cut my paper into circles, but rather triangles, and on top of that my individual pieces ended up way too big. As the wreath above shows the pieces are to be glued small cone end down and the top is supposed to stick up at you. My cones ended up being so big my wreath would have been five inches off the door (and wouldn't have fit between the door and storm door.

To make the actual wreath, I took newspaper and crumpled several pieces into a long tube, then taped the ends together. I wrapped the newspaper with white tissue paper (so you couldn't see the newspaper through the gaps of the scrap book paper cones. It was a really easy way to recycle and reuse newspaper.

I had spend a good long while taping these little scrap booking paper cones the night before, so there was no way I was going to proceed without using these cones. I used about 6-8 different patterns of scrap booking paper but all with similar colors. I had a larger triangle of patterned paper (about 8 were made from a 12x12 piece of paper) and smaller triangles (about 16 from a 12x12) that were single colored. With those single color, I placed an additional cone inside itself so there would be color from both the inside and outside of the cone. If your scrap booking paper is double sided (not white on one side) this step would not be necessary. However, this is how my smaller cones got the double point out the top.

 I had glued down a dozen or so cones when I realized it wasn't going to work. I decided not to take them off, but  cut them down half way. I took the rest of the cones I had made and glued them sideways with hot glue. It took me about 4 glue sticks to do this entire wreath, so make sure you have enough because I only like getting hot glue strings everywhere once!

I took my wreath hook and wrapped some of the coordinating triangles around it so the colors would be fluid rather than a bright red hook holding these pastel/summer colors.

I found a much easier idea I could have used after I began my project and realized it wasn't going to work:

 But, I might have just accidentally discovered the best new scrap booking wreath project in the world. According to my sister, they look like those Chinese finger traps that tighten up around your fingers as you pull them apart. She really isn't that far off...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Summer is here and dandelions are everywhere, but did you know that dandelions are not just for making wishes and rubbing pollen on your friends? There are actually quite a few useful things you can do with them!

My favorite idea for using dandelions comes from Let them Eat Healthy, a great blog with all kinds of cool recipes and tips.

Vanilla, Lavender, and Wild Dandelion Syrup

It looks and sounds just delicious so be sure to head on over there and check it out!!
Our Homestead on the Hillside posted this tip to their facebook page and I am very grateful. I tried fried dandelions once and was not a fan, but now I know why, the flowers were too bitter! Next time I will use buds and might have to try some leaves in a salad! Because...

According to Earth Friendly Goodies, Dandelion has quite a few health benefits!

"Just one cup of dandelion greens contains 2.1 g of protein, 112% of the daily recommendation of vitamin A, 32% vitamin C, and a whopping 535% vitamin K. A cup of dandelion leaves also contain 218 mg of potassium, 103 mg of calcium, and 1.7 mg of iron."

They also have a great recipe for Dandelion Coffee.

 What do you do with dandelions? Share your ideas here and on our facebook page!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Microwave and Canned Tomatos-Bad for your Health

There are two things that have in the last year become important for me to greatly limit or avoid whenever possible: the microwave and tomato based products from cans.

In our society it is not realistic to think you are going to completely avoid all of these things 100% of the time. Although it is possible, you might offend people inviting you to their home to eat or make your local restaurant not happy to see you!

The first hazard to your health is using the microwave too frequently. There are been studies to show that eating microwaved food does change things on a cellular level. People eating microwaved food versus others who didn't had tens of thousands more white blood cells in their body when blood work was done for a comparison.

When discussing this health information with Jairica, she shared with me an experiment that somehow confirmed that there were damaging effects from microwaved things.

The experiment link below is showing how water that was microwaved was killing plants versus the same water not microwaved. *Note, they were NOT giving the plants HOT water, but cooled it down to room temperature!

Microwaved Water Kills Plants in Days

So, the other side of health on my mind today is canned tomato based products including but not limited to: diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, canned pasta, and chili.

All of these things have acid from the tomatoes that over time after being canned reacts with the chemicals in the metal and eventually leaches unnatural chemicals into your food. Today I made a very exciting discovery when purchasing items for my homemade tomato sauce: Hunts now sells tomato sauce in an aseptic container which is not metal!

Now, most people are going to be most excited that you can reseal the package and use it again another time. Great feature...but not the reason I am so excited about it! This was one ingredient I use with otherwise fresh ingredients that I would buy pre-made. I can make my own tomato juice...but sauce and paste are much more difficult and I just don't have the time to try!

I have to hand it to the foodies over at ConAgra foods who make Hunt's products...I will most certainly not be purchasing competitors products because I am so happy with this packaging. Now if only we could sell diced tomatoes in glass or <gulp> even plastic containers (BPA free of course).

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