Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Birthday Cake for Those in Heaven

Every year we celebrate my husband's dad's birthday. He passed away in 2005 and never got a chance to meet two of our children.  To keep his memory alive and share the stories about him, we have a birthday party on his birthday.

I wanted to make a special cake this year, so I decided to create a sky cake with a message in the clouds. The cake is two 9" round cake pans stacked on top of each other.

To create a rainbow, I used colored sprinkles and sugar I had on hand. The blue frosting is aqua blue from Pillsbury. It comes already colored.

To give it a cloud effect, I wrote the words using a plastic bag. I just cut the tip off a corner of the sandwich bag. I piped on some clouds using the plastic bag as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Baked Fruit Pies (Like McDonald's)

My son loves the baked apple pies from McDonald's. So...we set out to make a homemade alternative at home. He was satisfied. :) The original recipe was found at : .

I substituted ingredients for what I had on hand. 

Crust Recipe: 
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 stick of butter (softened, but still cold)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

I used apple pie filling, strawberry jam, and raspberry jam.

Put all the crust ingredients in a bowl, except the butter. Take a stick of butter from the refrigerator. Put in in the microwave on defrost for about 25 seconds. Cut it into tablespoon tabs. Place the tabs of butter in with the other ingredients. Using a fork, cut the butter into the dough. I had to mix it a little bit with my hands too. When it becomes a dough, place the ball on a floured surface. 

Roll out the dough to about 1/8" in thickness. I used a coffee cup to make circles in the dough. 

Some of my circles were still a little thick, so I just rolled them out a little more. Place about a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the circle. 

Bring the ends together and crimp them with a fork. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until brown on the bottom. 

I topped the apple pies with some caramel syrup. I also had frosting left from a cake I made:
The pies were really good with the frosting too. Powdered sugar or a mixture of cinnamon and sugar would also be very good. 

Any leftovers can be refrigerated and heated up in the microwave the next day. (They are best warmed up.)

Quick Anniversary Cake

I wanted to make my parents a cake for their anniversary, but didn't have a ton of time, so I came up with this quick cake. I decorated it with my perfect cupcake frosting:

All I did was make a red velvet box cake. I put the batter in two 8"round cake pans. After baking and cooling, I leveled one of the cake tops and used that for the bottom cake. I put frosting between the two cakes and the outsides.
Using my large cupcake swirl tip, I made some red and white frosting swirls. I wrote Happy Anniversary in red frosting with a writing tip and added a heart. It didn't even take 5 minutes to decorate this cake. The frosting and red velvet cake mixed together perfectly! 

Crockpot Beef Roast

This beef roast is a great go-to meal for my crockpot. It is very versatile. It is great with mashed potatoes, or can be eaten with egg noodles as a quick beef stroganoff. I have even used the leftover gravy for meatballs the next day.

Start with a beef chuck roast. (Most of the time, I throw this in my crockpot frozen.)
Add a packet of dry onion soup mix. If you don't have this, it is fine without it.

On the stovetop, mix up two packets of brown gravy mix according the package. Let it thicken a little bit. Add one can of cream of mushroom soup.

Pour the gravy/soup mixture over the onion mix and roast.

Set the crockpot to high for 5-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. The meat gets extremely tender.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Enchillada Soup

I like crockpot recipes that don't require prep work before you put things in the crockpot. So, I just started dumping ingredients in yesterday, and this is what I came up with. It turned out really well actually.
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 gloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 jar mild salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce), chopped
2 frozen chicken breasts
3 cups chicken broth
Simply dump the ingredients into the crockpot and turn it on high for 5-6 hours. (You could also do low for 8-10 hours) Before you serve, shred the chicken with two forks and place shredded chicken back in the soup.

Serve with crushed tortilla chips. I also added some guacamole to my bowl to make it a little creamier. If you like sour cream, that would work as well. A can of corn added to this would also make for a nice addition.

Monday, July 15, 2013

July Activity Wall

For the last couple of weeks in July, our activity wall is going to become an ice cream cone. This is a very easy wall to create.

We started with a piece of brown felt. I cut it into the shape of a cone. I then drew my best interpretation of a scoop of ice cream.

We traced the scoop onto colors of construction paper. Each of the scoops will represent an activity for each day. They will take a different scoop of ice cream and add it to the cone. After adding the scoop, we will do an activity that is posted on our Summer Crafts board on Pinterest.
To decorate the scoops, we colored on some fudge swirls, colored sprinkles, and chocolate chips.

Drive-in Cars out of Boxes

It was too hot to play outside today, so we created our own drive-in movie theater.
Luckily, we had two Pampers boxes, so both boys each had a box. We were able to find a smaller one later for Rachel.
Each of the boys picked out a color of tissue paper to cover their box. It took three pieces of tissue paper to do the whole "car". I just taped it down with duct tape.
We cut out lights from construction paper and made license plates out of small cardboard pieces.

We drew on windows on the sides and taped on some wheels.

We put blankets on the bottom of the boxes and pillows in the back.
We made a license for each of the boys out of construction paper.
They made some movie tickets for themselves and took their cars to the "drive-in". They enjoyed popcorn and some other snacks as well.

 Rachel used her car later on for a spot to read books.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Duck Dynasty Birthday Party

 My son is a huge fan of Duck Dynasty. So when it became time to plan for his 5th birthday party, I wasn't the least bit surprised when he said he wanted a Duck Dynasty birthday party.

We all had so much fun making the decorations, preparing the meal, and decorating the cake.

I'll start with the decorations. Most of our supplies were found at Hobby Lobby. The decorations were under $50, and a lot of them are decorations the boys have already moved to their bedroom and will continue to use when they go "duck hunting".
I made some posters on Microsoft Word using the Duck Commander logo and pictures I found online and other quotes I got from the show. To save some ink in my computer, I found some camo scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby and printed a lot of the decorations right on the camo paper. If you would like the templates I used, comment below and I will email them to you.
I ran out of scrapbook paper for a couple of the posters, so I just added a camo background before I printed them.

I also found a large piece of camo stiff felt. (A couple of days before the party, we set up the other decorations and did a photo shoot.) I printed some of our Duck Dynasty photo shoot pictures off at the 1-hour photo Wal-Mart and added one of them to the poster I created on the stiff felt.
The other printed photos got posted around the house for added decoration.
You can't have a Duck Dynasty party without beards, so we bought brown, white, and dark gray felt pieces and a piece of brown and white crafting fur from Hobby Lobby. My boys each wanted a beard of their own, so we created a Willie beard for the birthday boy and a Si beard for my older son--also a huge fan of the show.
I just trimmed the crafting fur with scissors, until it fit their face and mouth. We just used tape to attach them to their faces.

For our party guests, we made beards on a stick. I found a beard template online and cut out three beards from each piece of felt. I taped a skewer stick to the back of each of the beards and set them at each place setting.
While we were shopping at Hobby Lobby, the boys came across a rabbit skin. They wanted to buy it for decoration, but I wasn't willing to spend $12 for it. So, as a trade-off, we found a piece of fur in the clearance fabric section. I did my best to cut out two rabbit skins and two squirrel skins from the fabric. The boys used the beard and fabric scraps to create a white-tail deer skin and their version of rat tails. We taped them to the wall.

I made a 4th of July wreath from an idea I found at So, I took that idea and turned it into a camo wreath. I bought brown, green, and cream colored tulle, a Styrofoam ring, and a piece of outdoor scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby.
The first step is to cut 16 pieces measuring 24 inches each. You will do this for each color. To make this step faster, I cut one piece to be used as guide. I then pulled the tulle the length of the first piece and keep going back and forth until I had 16 pieces. Then I went to each end and cut the pieces all the pieces.
After all three colors are cut, you will alternate colors and place them on the ring. For this process, you will fold the piece of tulle in half. Slide it under the ring.
Pull the bottom pieces through the loop you created when you folded it in half.

Then pull the knot tight.

I placed the scrapbook paper behind the wreath on the wall, tied a piece of camo ribbon around the wreath to hang it up, and placed it on a command hook. I thought about hanging a plastic duck figure so it looked like it was flying through the middle, but I couldn't find one. The wreath looks really pretty on the wall and will make a great fall decoration.
The next piece to our party was the cake. I knew I wanted a duck pond of some sort, and my birthday boy really wanted the Duck Dynasty guys to be on the cake. I am not a cake decorating expert AT ALL! I knew I wasn't going to be able to create the Duck Dynasty guys on my own. So I started searching online. Luckily, I found Duck Dynasty action figures on Ebay. :) They were a perfect accent to the cake and doubled as the perfect birthday present!
For the cake, I just baked a standard 9x13" chocolate cake. Using a knife, I cut out a duck pond. I had a jar of aqua blue frosting that worked perfectly to fill the duck pond.
Tinting my perfect cupcake frosting recipe ( I created a mossy green color to cover the cake. This frosting spreads really easily and didn't crumble the cake at all. It does have to be refrigerated though.

As an outline around the duck pond, I molded tootsie rolls. As a little added feature, I rolled tootsie roll pieces to create a beaver dam in the corner. (All the plastic pieces I added came with the Duck Dynasty action figures.)

I used jelly belly jellybeans to create a campfire and made little logs out of tootsie rolls for the firewood. I then put each of the Duck Dynasty figures on a tootsie roll log.

As some added features, I created Duck Commander water bottles and a quote centerpiece.
Using the camo scrapbook paper, I printed four Duck Commander logos to a page. I cut them out and taped them on water bottles.
The centerpieces is a green Styrofoam circle covered with an extra piece of brown felt. I glued on a couple pieces of the camo ribbon to spice it up a little bit. With the rest of the scrapbook paper, I printed different quotes from the show. Some of them were, "Happy, Happy, Happy", "That's a fact, Jack", "Hey, Listen Here, Jack" "It's on Like Bing Bong, Jack", "It's a Party, Jack" "Quack, Quack, Quack", "Duck Commander", "Happy 5th Birthday, David", and the Duck Commander logo. I cut skewers to different lengths and stuck them in the Styrofoam. I found some camo ducks online and added them to the centerpiece. I also used these sayings and placed them in my camo cupcakes. The recipe for those is on my blog at:

I found camo plates, napkins, cups, and paper hats from KMart, added a mallow dog (hot dog bun with marshmallows) and this was our decorated table.

For the menu, we had "frog legs" (chicken wings), fried chicken, a shrimp and sausage boil, biscuits, coleslaw, "boudin"(brats), banana pudding, and sweet tea.
The final decoration was a Willie piñata. I knew I wasn't going to find one in the store, so we made our own. I cut a bunch of newspaper strips. For the paste, take 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and 1 tablespoon of salt and mix until it becomes a paste. Next, blow up a balloon. To save some time, I spread some of the paste to cover an area of the balloon and put the strips, in a crisscross pattern. After I added a strip of paper, I brushed more of the paste over the strip. After I had the balloon covered completely, I hung it out on the clothesline to dry. I did this three times. When it was completely dry, instead of painting the piñata, I taped white tissue paper over the newspaper mold. I glued on a piece of American flag scrapbook paper for the bandana, added some eyes, and one of the cut out beards we made from the felt. I then found some brown yarn and glued it on the top and sides for the hair.

 After unwrapping his Duck Commander duck call and lanyard, the night was complete. The boys put on their costumes, and with Duck Dynasty playing in the background, they felt like they fit right in with the guys. :)

 We all had a great time!
I think it will be a birthday he will always remember.