Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Like father, like son




{sigh}
Two of my three most favorite men in the world!
(Yes, Dad, you're the other one!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

RMMB: "Who said anything about sleep?"

I will admit I have thoroughly enjoyed my time away from the computer for the holidays. In fact it was easier to step away from the keyboard than I thought. No withdrawals, no post-traumatic Facebook disorder, nothing...just more time to spend with family and less time feeling my butt go numb.

I did spend a little bit of time writing my latest post over on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog and would love for you to check it out when you have a minute:


I have a feeling many of you will relate to my latest thoughts on the joys of parenthood!

I plan to get back in the blogging saddle next week, though I may continue this newfound love of less time online and more time "in real life." We shall see... --Emily

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To quote my friend Kalli...

I'm not sure I have this totally correct but apparently my friend Kalli sent out a new holiday sentiment with her Christmas cards this season and I'd like to pass it along to my readers. It's not only priceless but echoes my feelings for the holidays:

Wishing you the freaking best holidays ever!

And to make the holidays even "sweeter" watch this video from JibJab. My kids had me play it over and over and over again (at least 5 times in a row). And while writing this post they're watching it yet again...


Friday, December 18, 2009

Bite-size brownies with peppermint frosting

I'm all about easy when it comes to the holidays, and that includes holiday treats. Don't get me wrong, I love a made-from-scratch spinach and artichoke dip, tomato bruschetta or chocolate trifle, but sometimes you need something quick, easy and tasty. That's how I came up with these simple yet sweet (both in taste and presentation) treats that would work easily for both neighbor plates and holiday parties.


Take the idea and run with it! You could use white frosting with green and red sprinkles, or I even thought of making a peanut butter-flavored frosting and using semisweet chocolate shavings instead. I started experimenting with different designs, including a Christmas tree shape (middle). You can't beat Costco's brownie bites for quick and easy and they taste yummy too!



Bite-size Brownies with Peppermint Frosting
1 package Costco brownie bites
Mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 recipe peppermint frosting


Peppermint frosting:
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 16-oz. packages powdered sugar
2 teaspoons peppermint extract (not oil)

For frosting, beat cream cheese
and butter together until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar and peppermint extract and beat until thoroughly combined. Use a piping bag with your favorite tip (I used the small circle tip in the photos) and pipe the frosting on top of each brownie bite. Sprinkle with semisweet chocolate chips. How easy is that?!?!

My little ones loved helping sprinkle the chocolate chips and then they had to sample their work:

.
..

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climbing Back: Stephanie Nielson's story

If you feel like you're somehow missing the point of the holiday season amidst the shopping and hustle and bustle of last-minute preparations, then take a moment (a lot of moments) to read the story of Stephanie Nielson, wife, mother, writer and airplane crash survivor. Journalist Jaimee Rose has beautifully captured her amazing story with its struggles, triumphs, heartaches and sweet victories for the Arizona Republic. I'm not through reading it yet and I've already grabbed a box of Kleenex. I might even need two:

The intro page also has links to audio slideshows, Stephanie's family tree, info about Doug Kinneard (the pilot) and the staggering costs of her medical treatments.

This season try to take more time to count your blessings and less time counting the check marks on the Christmas wish lists. --Emily



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Pretty, pretty princess





Someday I will find a handsome prince who will love me just the way I am...

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis the season for too many blog posts and too little time

I am starting to feel the time crunch that often hits less than two weeks before Christmas Eve. Anyone else feeling it? I want to enjoy the holiday season as much as possible this year so I'm doing a handful of things to help me maintain the holiday spirit amidst the crazy shopping, frigid weather and over-committed schedule:

  • Worrying less about exercise {I burn enough calories meandering through holiday crowds.}
  • Caring less about how many holiday treats I've eaten {How can you enjoy Rolo-filled peanut butter cookies or homemade fudge when you're counting calories?}
  • Losing count as to how many "seconds" I've had {Some dishes you need to try at least two or three times to make sure they're still you're favorite.}
  • Reading less blog posts {Sorry, girls, if I'm not commenting nearly as often.}
  • Writing less blog posts {When it's a choice between my sanity and posts for this blog, sanity wins every time. Okay, it wins 95% of the time.}
So with that I ask beg you to take some time off yourself. I'm giving you one less blog post to read so you have a couple more minutes to do some last-minute shopping, polish off that plate of neighbor goodies or sing "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" one more time. But don't stay away too long or you'll miss a random post here and there AND when I announce my new site is up and running. No better way to kick off the New Year than with a fabulous new site! --Emily

Image by Darwin Bell, shared via Flickr.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Recipe wrap-up, part 2

Last week I went through and put together a list of ten bookmarked recipes in an effort to get through the extensive collection of bookmarked pages in my browser. This week I'm giving you ten more...and it looks like I'll have enough for a part 3! Hopefully you'll discover some new recipes to try, new blogs to read and new indulgences to, well, indulge in. Happy browsing!


After part 3 next week I'll be posting some of my favorite recipes from this year's church progressive dinner. You can find all my faves from 2008 here:

And here's one from 2007:
If you have any tried and true recipes perfect for the holidays I'd love for you to share them in the comments below. I always need new ideas for holiday potlucks and parties!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Resourceful Mommy's take on blogging conferences

I have yet to attend a blogging conference. I was all set to hit BlogHer in Chicago with Daria from Boutique Cafe but our sponsor had to pull out at the last minute. Because of the high price tag (conference plus flight plus hotel) neither of us could attend. We ended up moving right around that time so it all worked out for the best, but I was still a bit sad I couldn't go. Then I heard about all the swag drama and how many gals didn't even attend sessions because they were up too late partying the night before at one of many VIP events. I ended up feeling rather glad I didn't fork out the money--if I want to stay up late with girlfriends I can easily do that locally and I get to sleep in my own bed!

With the plethora of blogging conferences out there it's hard to know which ones to attend. For many of us it's not in the budget to attend more than one or two a year. Not only is money hard to come by but also babysitters, and if I'm going to finagle a babysitter (my mother-in-law) and spend my family's grocery money on a conference it sure as heck better be worth it.

That's why I love Resourceful Mommy's recent post: "The End of Blogging Conferences?"

Someone a few years back invented the first blog conference and likewise the blog conference format, not realizing, of course, that the format would be repeated over and over and over. ..."

She goes on to highlight what makes a typical blogging conference and why it needs to change. Plus you simply MUST check out the photo she includes in the post. I am still laughing! I feel her post is spot on and definitely worth a read. And if you're not following Resourceful Mommy on Twitter, follow her here: @ResourcefulMom. In my opinion she's one of THE women to follow.

What's your take on blogging conferences, and even conferences in general? High quantity but low quality? Do you have a favorite conference you make sure to attend?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Did the Griswolds move in?





Hear that? That's the sound of the power meter spinning like it's never spun before!

This home is just a few blocks away and we love driving by it whenever we're out and about. Nothing like a gazillion colorful lights and animated decorations to put you in the holiday spirit! --Emily

Monday, December 7, 2009

RMMB: "Let's hear it for the boys"

Anyone else finding the holidays are well under way, which means something going on every night plus twice as many errands during the day? I really want to enjoy the season rather than survive the season so you may find my posts a bit more random than usual. Someone's got to play Santa around here!

Because it's Monday and because there's snow on the ground I'm feeling the need to snuggle a bit more with my little ones today, so today's post is what I consider a cheater post: the mention of a post I've written somewhere else. But that's all you're going to get today. If you have an issue with it you can take it up with the little elves running amuck in the house. Over on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog you'll find my latest post:


Excerpt:
Wherever you find girls, you find drama. I learned this for myself in elementary school when I pretended to not be friends with one girl so another girl wouldn't get mad at me. My girls are learning this now. I believe it was the second grade when one daughter was invited to a New Year's Eve party only to be told she was there because another girl couldn't make it. ... The point is, girls are a crazy, emotional, nutty bunch no matter the age. I've heard about drama in kindergarten but it seems to hit critical mass during the pre-teen, teen and college years. That's a good 12 to 15 years of glares, gossip and grudges. My solution? Steer clear of girls and make friends with boys. {click here to read the full post}

Anyone else dealing with the drama? Head on over to Rocky Mountain Moms Blog to read the full post and share your thoughts on the subject. Happy Monday! --Emily

Friday, December 4, 2009

Speaking of something yummy...

...
...
...
I pulled this off the Avon website.

No, I'm not asking Santa for Patrick Dempsey for Christmas but I do think he's extremely yummy and so I'm deeming this post totally appropriate for food for thought friday. If you feel differently then you need to watch Can't Buy Me Love a few hundred more times... --Emily

Recipe wrap-up

Like many of you whenever I come across a great blog post or tempting recipe or wonderful online resource, I add it to my browser's bookmarks (in its appropriate folder, of course). Because Friday has typically been food for thought friday around here I have more than my fair share of food-related bookmarks in that folder. I'm starting to crumble under the weight of them all so today I thought I'd simply choose ten, which you can click on and browse at your leisure.

Sure, it's the lazy way to do things but with my holiday schedule--and new website's layout itching to be designed--it's all I've got. Next week you might be lucky enough to find ten more. (I collect online bookmarks like my daughter collects stray insects for pets.) By the way, I am still anxious to post those laundry tips and the photo of Mr. Maytag Repairman and hope to do so on Monday!


Do you have any bookmarked recipes or food-related links you'd like to share? I'd love to add more to the list!

Image by Muffet, shared via Flickr.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tune in tomorrow...or maybe Friday

Today I spent far too much time online doing some Christmas shopping (and personal shopping) and now I have heaps of work to do before I can lay my head to rest tonight, so instead of a super deep, super thoughtful post I think I'll leave you with this timely quote:

"Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping." ~Bo Derek

Tune in tomorrow (or with how my week is going so far, sometime in the next few days) for what might actually be a life-changing post, at least when it comes to laundry. Thanks to a service visit by my Maytag repair man (Merry Christmas to me...) I learned a few new facts about doing laundry. I will try to remember all the tidbits he threw at me just in case you haven't heard them before. And yes, I even snapped a pic of Mr. Maytag Repair Man! --Emily

Wordless Wednesday: Biting the hand that feeds you




"I know he followed you home but the answer is still no. In fact, it's 'snowball's chance' no!"

My girls had the chance to visit the Utah Museum of Natural History as part of a SassyScoops.com family review day. Can you tell they had a wonderful time? You can read more about what they had to say--I can guarantee you'll smile if not emit a chuckle--over on SassyScoops.com. You'll find the Preview here and the Sassies' (and my family's) take on it here.

The group also visited the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and had lunch catered by Red Butte Cafe so check out those reviews on SassyScoops.com over the next couple weeks! --Emily

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Glimpse of Santa

Camille over at Make It Work Mom gave me the heads up about a fantastic photo opportunity for the holidays, not only because it's sure to be the easiest, cutest way to get pics with Santa but also because it supports a worthy cause. A Glimpse of Santa is truly a gift that gives back!

I too have dealt with those oh-so-fun trips to the mall for a photo with Santa. It was a traumatic experience and like Camille, the end result was a photo of not only Santa and my dear daughter but also me (and I'm pretty sure I didn't have makeup on either). That's why I love the idea behind A Glimpse of Santa. Here's an intro, thanks to Make It Work Mom:

A friend of mine, Jennifer Eliason, is offering special photo sessions with your kids and Santa. Only this one has a twist. The Santa is YOU! How cool is that? "Santa’s" face won’t be in the picture, but your kids’ true, naturally excited expression will! So, instead of tucking away a picture taken by a mall employee of a bearded guy from off the street holding your screaming toddler, you walk away with a classy, quality candid of your little one that you’ll want to frame and display throughout the holiday and each year!

And if you book your session for DECEMBER 12, you’ll be helping out little Odette, a 1-yr-old who is battling leukemia because 100% of all Jen’s proceeds for that day will be donated to her fund.

Check out Jen’s blog for more details then contact Jen today to book your session!

You can also check out Camille's post over on Make It Work Mom. Her blog is definitely one you'll want to add to your blog reader!

Though we probably won't make the December 12th date as times are going quickly, I am hoping we can find another time early this season to catch our own glimpses of Santa, Christmas pj's and all! --Emily

RMMB: "Simplifying the Christmas Wish List"

Another Rocky Mountain Moms Blog post is live and this one is all about simplifying the holidays, namely the often dreaded wish list. The secret? Read on to find out!


Excerpt:
In the past we've often felt like Santa pretty much dumped the entire contents of his sleigh under our tree, especially when you added in the gifts from Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles and friends. We would try to stick to a budget for each child, but I often shopped throughout the year and then forgot I had purchased half the items in my hidden Rubbermaid container so I went and purchased more. The insanity needed to end and last year a friend gave me a great way to put a stop to the madness that is Christmas morning..." {click here to read more}

So what are your tips and tricks for simplifying the holidays? I'd love to hear! Happy holidays! --Emily

Image by allereirau, shared via Flickr.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

better hold on tight, spider monkey

I admit it, I'm not an avid fan of the Twilight series. I read them all, yes, but groaned my way through New Moon and laughed my way through Breaking Dawn. I even waited until the Twilight movie was on DVD before watching it. That's why when I saw this video posted over on formerly phread I had to share it here. Enjoy!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Day, 2009

I was planning to take the week from posting like my friend Vanessa but my Wordless Wednesday pic begged to be posted and then Evonne, who had also vowed to take the week off (the proof is here), broke her vow and posted today (three posts to be exact). So I had no other choice but to also give thanks if only to remember what is truly important when your Thanksgiving Day was, I hate to say it, as lame as ours.

Here's what I 'm grateful for this Thanksgiving...sometimes it's the small and simple things that count:

  • Homemade rolls because when all else fails, including the turkey pot pie and mashed potatoes, homemade rolls make it all better
  • Rosy cheeks and pink noses because that means the kids are having a ball playing in the snow
  • A new cinnamon roll recipe because even though the first attempt didn't turn out, I know they're going to be fabulous on Christmas morning (as long as I put them in two pans and bake them thoroughly)
  • Organic frozen corn from Costco because it's easy and yummy, two important things for a holiday meal
  • A home theater because even G.I. Joe looks great on the big screen and in the comfort of your own home (popcorn optional but often included)
  • Pumpkin Pie from Marie Callender's because I don't make or eat pumpkin pie
  • A sister who loves to get up at 3am to hit the Black Friday sales because then I can email her a list the night before and let her do the shopping (thank you, Megan!)
  • Text messages from friends letting me know they're grateful for me (hard to believe but it's true)
  • Enough wonderful, loving, lovable, kind, caring good friends to make texting them all an Olympic event
  • A family who loves me even when Thanksgiving Day is boring and the dinner sucks

Next year we will definitely be spending Thanksgiving with more than just our own family, not that my little family isn't wonderful but there's something to be said for spending time--and turkey--with in-laws, cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles...you get my drift.

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm off to start putting up Christmas decorations while singing a few Christmas tunes. Then it's pizza and breadsticks for dinner, brownies and ice cream for dessert and maybe even some quality time with the kids. Today is shaping up to be better than yesterday...I'm becoming queen of the do-over holidays. --Emily

Image by food_in_mouth, shared via Flickr.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

30% off & FREE shipping at georgietees.com!


Just a quick reminder that we are offering our customers


30% OFF
(on all orders)

plus


FREE Priority Mail SHIPPING

(on orders over $75)

when you shop online at georgietees.com. Simply enter code BLACKFRIDAY09 in the Comments section when checking out. (We will process your discount manually.) Offer is good from midnight Thursday the 26th through midnight Sunday Happy shopping!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The "Grammy"


Anyone else have a grandmother who goes in once a week to get her hair styled? That is what my latest "do" reminds me of...and this picture doesn't even do it justice. You can't tell just how flat it is smashed against my head and the true spikiness of it all. It's almost poetic. No, I am not suing my stylist--I adore her. This anomaly is due to my not feeling well and being in bed for about three days straight. Think I'll start a new trend? Yeah, didn't think so. --Emily

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

I have decided Thanksgiving week is the perfect excuse to step away from the computer and get down on the floor with my kids. We'll be taking it easy, playing games, writing out Christmas wish lists, doing a little baking and enjoying some tryptophan on Thanksgiving Day. I hope you all do the same!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tangy slow cooker pork roast

The other day I made the yummiest pork roast in the slow cooker and I just had to share. Not only did the husband and daughter rave about it but it was super easy and the leftovers have been scrumptious. I should know since I've been eating them for the past two days!

I found the original recipe on AllRecipes.com and tweaked it according to a view reviewers suggestions. The final result was super tasty. Here's the recipe with my changes. (You can find the original Tangy Slow Cooker Pork Roast recipe here.)

Tangy Slow Cooker Pork Roast
1 large onion, sliced
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Arrange onion slices evenly over the bottom of the slow cooker and place the roast on top of the onion. In a bowl mix together water, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, black pepper, salt, minced garlic and hot sauce; pour over roast. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

We enjoyed it that night as is and then shredded the leftovers for pork tacos, which I have been eating incessantly since yesterday. My fave is to put a small tortilla on a plate, top with shredded pork, heat in the microwave for 30 seconds and then top with shredded cheese and a little ranch.


What would be even better is some creamy cilantro-type ranch dressing from Cafe Rio or Bajio! Can you say "party in my tummy?" --Emily

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Boutique Cafe: "Are you ready for your closeup?"

Sometimes posting on multiple sites can get a bit crazy but on days like today I am super glad I do. It means if I was up super late working on client press releases and a Boutique Cafe post the night before and didn't get a post ready for freshly baked, I can easily type up a quick blurb like this one and link you to my recap of Startup Princess' recent Image & Media Academy. And that's exactly what I'm going to do:



Thanks to Seth Jenks (@SethJenks) from APX Alarm I was able to attend part of this fabulous event and joined 20 or so other women at a cabin in Sunday for a night of inspiration, renewal and serious note taking. You can read all about it on BoutiqueCafe.com.

I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe for this super tasty tangy pork roast I cooked the other night. It was a hit and the leftovers? Yummy! --Emily

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Thinking inside the box





Who needs Disneyland when you have a box and some super cool battery-operated light thingies from Walmart?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mama's Holiday Wish List Meme

TodaysMama and Provo Craft are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What 5 items are on your holiday wish list this year?

  • Canon Rebel 10.1 megapixel camera
  • Road bike so I can train for a sprint triathlon next year
  • Great pair of heels
  • Massage
  • Pedicure
2. What is your favorite handmade gift you have received?
  • A necklace made by my BFF
3. What handmade gift have you always wanted to tackle?
  • A super cute apron
4. What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child?
  • I remember totally loving this awesome pink winter coat!
5. What items are on your kid’s wish list this year?
  • We haven't had a chance to make those yet but usually you'll find a Nintendo DS or Wii game
6. What is your favorite holiday food?
  • Spinach dip in a sourdough bowl, soups on Christmas Eve and peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks
7. What will you be hand-crafting for the holidays?
  • Hand-crafting? What's that? Do cookies for the neighbors count?
8. What is your favorite holiday movie?
9. Favorite holiday song?
  • "Let It Snow" and "Ave Maria" by Harry Connick Jr., the entire Barenaked for the Holidays CD and of course anything that reminds me of Christmas mornings as a child.
10. Favorite holiday pastime?
  • Enjoying a real fire in the fireplace at my parents' home with the entire family there, hitting Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the ginormous number of lights and opening new PJ's on Christmas Eve.
It's your turn! If you want to enter you can read the details on TodaysMama. Now it's time to tag a few friends (who weren't already tagged by Rachael's Meme post):

Jennifer
Lindy
Kelly
Daria
Kami
Stephanie
Lauren
Evonne

Ready, set, meme! --Emily

Monday, November 16, 2009

RMMB: "It's a schedule, not a chore chart"

Sometimes it really is all in how you say it. My latest post is up on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog and it details our latest attempt to get our girls to "happily" chip in around the house so Mom doesn't have to nag 24/7. (It's actually more like 14/6 if you don't count the hours the kids are asleep and Sundays.) The idea for a "schedule" rather than a "chore chart" came from Nathan and I must give credit where credit is due since he rarely gets any credit. He's a smart man, don't get me wrong, but I'm really the brains behind this operation we call a family. (Totally kidding--couldn't do it without you, babe!)


Excerpt:
We've tried so-called chore charts in the past and even The Chore Board, a board-game version of a chore chart, but no matter chart or game, the newness wears off quickly. As a mom with a long to-do list I can totally sympathize with my kids when they whine and complain about vacuuming or doing laundry or heck, even making their beds. I constantly remind them Mom is the only one who gets to have a bad attitude around the house so they better change theirs and change it quickly! Click here to read more...

I'd love for you to click on over and read the post on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog. And of course I'd love you to comment over there as well if you feel so inclined. Share with us what works for you or hasn't worked for you. Who knows? This schedule thing may just fizzle and we'll need a new idea! --Emily

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shark cupcakes even Spielberg would love

This post is about three weeks overdue but that's about my speed right now--three weeks behind everything including laundry and sleep. I've been anxious to post about the super nifty shark and life preserver cupcakes I made for George's birthday because they were not only easy (don't confuse easy with quick) but really, really fun AND I received compliments from complete strangers when they saw them adorning the party table at Jungle Jim's.

Like I said, don't confuse easy with quick as these babies did take time but it was worth it. We did have some cupcake malfunctions; I will share those with you so you can learn from my mistakes. Maybe then your sharks won't take a nosedive onto the cupcake tray.

What you'll need:

  • 2 dozen baked and cooled cupcakes
  • 1-2 cans vanilla or cream cheese frosting
  • Blue sugar sprinkles
  • 1 can white decorating icing (the kind that is pressurized and comes with a few different tips) * this is optional if you want to use a piping bag and #4 icing tip
  • 12 Twinkies
  • 24 Mini chocolate chips (or more since we like to nibble as we bake)
  • 3+ Oreo cookies (the plus is because you'll break a few and eat a few)
  • Red fruit leather
  • Small tube of black decorating gel
  • 12 Gummy LifeSavers or peach rings
  • Black and blue food coloring

How you'll do it:

First, make sure you only use Twinkies without any splits on the sides or tops. Notice in the photo below the one on the left has filling bustin' out the side. Trust me, you want to eat this rather than use it.


To created the shark's body lay the Twinkie on its side and trim a good inch or two (at an angle) off the bottom so the shark's body angles out of the cupcake.

Possible cupcake malfunction: DO NOT make this angle too steep or the shark WILL fall over. If you want it at more of an angle then I suggest propping it up with a hidden gumdrop or something once you press it into the cupcake's frosting. Either that or slather on a ton more frosting than I did so it has a good support system. And of course don't let them sit too long before eating. Those sharks do get tired!


After all your sharks are lined up in a row you'll want to trim a very small "V" shape where the shark's jaws will go.


Now it's time to make the fins. Twist, pull, pray...whatever you have to do to get the Oreos apart so you can scrape off the filling. I found Pampered Chef's Quikut paring knife* (I own like five of these handy, super sharp little things--they're only $1.75!) perfect for this job and for cutting the cookies in half, which you need to do so you have your fins. After you've eaten the broken cookies and had a swig of your ginormous Diet Coke (pictured at the top of photo below and a must for any cupcake adventure like this), cut a slit in your Twinkie and oh so gently slide that fin into place.

Possible cupcake malfunction #2: If you have a shorter shark body you'll need much smaller fins so cut the cookies in half and then shave off a little more cookie. Otherwise you'll either have to cut the slit so big it goes right off the Twinkie's back edge and your Oreo won't stay put (trust me on this one) OR simply make a bigger shark body so you can have whatever size fin you'd like.

If you're going to use a pastry bag to pipe the teeth, set aside a spoonful or two of icing. If you're going with my quick-and-dirty method of those pressurized frosting cans complete with tip, ignore the previous sentence.

Divide the icing and tint half of it whatever blue you'd like (can of frosting on left, below) for the ocean water and the other half gray.

Possible cupcake malfunction #3: If you don't have black food coloring (usually as a gel) leave immediately and buy some. Otherwise you will try making gray with a little neon purple mixed with whatever colors you have on hand just hoping you'll get gray. You'll then realize it's still very purple (bowl of frosting in the middle, above) and bust open a very old bottle of black food coloring gel, scrape out what you can using a toothpick and then use that to achieve a nice, sharky gray (can of frosting on right, above). Sounds much easier to just buy the black gel, doesn't it? Yeah, I quickly learned that too.

Ice the cupcakes using the blue frosting. Use whatever technique you'd like to make it appear frothy and wavy. I used the back side of my mini spreading knife and patted it up and down randomly on the top of the cupcake.

Then for an extra fun step we sprinkled the top with blue sugar. This was when George got to jump in and have a little fun. (I rarely let my kids get involved when I do their birthday cakes and cupcakes but I made an exception this time. Yes, he's spoiled.) If you want to avoid sprinkles all over the counter and floor, try using a large bowl to catch them. You'll be amazed how many sprinkles you end up recycling!


Now you get to nestle your Twinkies into the frosting and then freeze them for at least 20 minutes. (Refer to possible cupcake malfunction #1 for tips on shark placement and projection.)


Now you can quickly work on the life preservers. Simply place on Gummy LifeSaver or peach ring off center on each cupcake then pipe three small lines with white frosting. Okay, so these were quick AND easy!


While your sharks are freezing their little fins off, trim your fruit leather in a sort of curved rectangle or oval about 1 1/2" long and set aside. (Um, setting aside fruit leather is easier said than done. That stuff sticks like crazy so good luck!)

Now, the original recipe suggested warming the icing until smooth and then brushing it on with a silicone brush. I removed the cupcakes from the freezer, tried this and immediately decided this was so not going to work. So I simply took one of my other favorite Pampered Chef products, the Small Spreader, and used that to get the frosting well lathered over the shark's body. I found it much easier, much less frustrating and requiring far less swigs on that Diet Coke. By the way, I have no photos at this point because my hands are covered in fruit leather and there was a snowball's chance I was going to be able to take photos while frosting those sharks!

Before the frosting dries, apply your bloody red fruit leather mouth to the front of the shark and a little black gel for gills. Then press in the mini chocolate chips so the shark can see just what it's biting. Note to self: make sure all sharks have two sets of gills.


And for the grand finale, pipe white teeth around the fruit leather. Might I suggest investing in one of these fab cupcake carriers if you're going to bake-and-take cupcakes more than once a year. I don't have the top on it this time since those sharks were just too dang tall, but I love this thing! Mine is from The Cupcake Courier but I think you can find them elsewhere as well.


Whew! We made it to Jungle Jim's Playland in time and only lost one shark on the way. Actually, it kind of made that shark look like it had battle wounds so I just told my kids it looked more lifelike that way. The best compliment should've been from George, who loved his cupcakes but it came from one of the helpers at Jungle Jim's. She basically said those were the coolest cupcakes she had ever seen...and she'd seen a LOT of cupcakes!



Disclaimer: I don't sell Pampered Chef and have hosted only one party—but it was a really fun party!

Note: I found the original recipe on The Celebration Shoppe and simply tweaked it a bit.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Treasures & tidbits from Yo Gabba Gabba!

I didn't use to be a fan of Yo Gabba Gabba! It ranked right up there with Teletubbies and Boobah for near-creepy shows for toddlers. But over the past week or so my youngest has become obsessed with the show (obsessed as in I've seen the four Yo Gabba Gabba! episodes currently on DVR about a thousand times each) and as much as I hate to say it, the show has started to grow on me.

Okay, so I still think some of those 3-second shorts between scenes are a little strange and the whole thing a little psychedelic BUT I have fallen in love with a couple catchy tunes. No, not "Try It, You'll Like It," though that does come in handy at dinnertime, or "Party in My Tummy"--okay that one just makes me laugh. I'm talking about some of the little treasures below. (The first two aren't anywhere near high def but you'll get the idea.)

The Little Ones singing "Hey, Won't Somebody Come and Play":



And The Postmarks singing "Balloons":



Which led me to watch their "Let Go" video also on YouTube:



Then you have one of my latest favorite tidbits, "I Found Love" performed by Trembling Blue Stars. Sorry about the overlap on this one but without it you wouldn't be able to push the play button!



(I found this little video here.)

So I am absolutely loving Yo Gabba Gabba! if for no other reason than introducing me to some pretty cool, previously obscure bands. I've gone on to check out more of their songs and videos and that may eventually lead to buying their CDs. So thanks, YGG, for promoting indie artists! --Emily

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Do I need to pencil you in?

Do you think my two-year-old is trying to tell me something? Perhaps asking where she fits in my schedule?

Note my super gourmet meals of chicken fingers and pasta with alfredo sauce--hey, at least I planned something! Oh, and did you catch The Pioneer Woman Cooks book signing scheduled on the 4th; now THAT was a good time! You can read my post along with a handful of other recaps here. If you're curious about my fabulous planner (it really is fabulous when not covered in chocolate) it's from momAgenda. Their desktop planners rock!

By the way, the next page in my planner is covered in blue ballpoint pen. Yes, the "artist" struck again...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He did NOT just say that!

Whenever my kids say something funny I vow to write it down so I won't forget it...and then I don't write it down and of course forget it. But my husband just walked in and told me something I had to share so I wrote it down immediately because even though I was going to post about it within mere minutes, this mommy brain of mine tends to lose things rather quickly. This one's a keeper:

The setting
Dad, 12-year-old daughter and four-year-old son sitting on LoveSacs watching Samurai Jack.


Some bad guy on Samurai Jack: "Get me Samurai Jack. I want his essence."
Daughter: "What's 'his essence?'"

Son: "It means he wants his soul." {did you catch the part about his being four?}

Two minutes later husband walks into the office and replays the recent conversation for his wife.

Wife, after husband tells her what their son just said: "Seriously?!?!"
Husband: "Where did THAT come from?"

Wife: "Holy cow."
Husband: "Yeah."

I am still wondering what just happened... --Emily


Monday, November 9, 2009

Rachael Herrscher's take on the FTC's new guidelines

Whether you've been blogging for a short while or forever you've probably heard of the FTC's new disclosure policies for bloggers. If you haven't then I'd like to know where you've been on vacation and can I go next time? Many of us feel the FTC is taking it too far in what they deem necessary to keep blogs, especially those doing product reviews and/or endorsements, on the up and up.

I love this post from Rachael Herrscher, friend and woman behind TodaysMama, which you can find on Entrepreneur.com today:


I couldn't agree with her more, especially on the whole Darwinism feel at the end. And her disclosure statement? Fabulous.

If you have a few minutes--or even if you don't--take the time to read Rachael's post and comment if you feel so inclined. I find it interesting to hear everyone's opinions on the FTC's new policy, especially those who feel it's a step in the right direction. All I can say to those select few is, "Really?!" (Perhaps Seth & Amy should do a bit on this for SNL's next Weekend Update...)