Sunday, July 31, 2011

Speechless Sunday

Copyright Laura George, from her Etsy shop.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chocolate Ooey Gooey Butter Cookies

My sister went camping and wanted to take an easily portable treat. What better than cookies? We tried this Chocolate Ooey Gooey Butter Cookie recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything. Quite tasty indeed.

Christy (aka The Girl Who Ate Everything) got this recipe from Paula Deen.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
1 (18 ounce) box moist chocolate cake mix
1 (8-ounce) brick cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
1 stick of butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the egg. Then beat in the vanilla extract. Beat in the cake mix. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up so that you can roll the batter into balls. Roll the chilled batter into tablespoon sized balls and then roll them in confectioner’s sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 12 minutes. The cookies will remain soft and gooey. Cool completely and sprinkle with more confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Have You Tried Instagram?

Bear with me for a minute while I geek out here. My friend Stephanie told me to try the (free!) iPhone app, Instagram. I'm not sure if it translates to Android phones or not. I'm sure there is something similar.

I just love the ease of this app. You can take a picture with it or pull one from your Camera Roll on your iPhone and then choose a filter, which is the best part! They have 15 different filters, most of which are somewhat descriptive of what the filter is, for example, "1977" really makes the photo look like it was in a box stored from 1977. My favorite filter is "Earlybird." Here are a few of my most recent filtered photos:

I love how retro this picture looks!

Sweet little ballerina. Again, she is 3 years old, born in 2008 - not the 70's.

Precious Happy Olivia

My feet in the field, farm girl at heart.

Now I realize I should have done before and after to show off Instagram's coolness. It's free, so give it a try because it can give little camera phone pics some ooomph.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pinterest's Most Recent Victim

Captured last night. Yup, that was me. I think I may have hopped on this train late, although I do see "Pinterest" in the title or mentioned in many posts each week. It was only a matter of time before I was sucked in. I had so many hours to kill plenty of things to do last night, but instead managed to start my first few boards. I could have stayed up all night doing that. For those of you who don't know what Pinterest is, in short, it is a virtual bulletin board you can "pin" any picture from anywhere on the internet to your own "boards" you categorize. It is also very addicting.

I follow Sherry and John from Young House Love (who doesn't? they have hundreds of comments per post!) and saw this post introducing:

Sherry & John at YHL are teaming up with Bower Power, Making A House A Home and Style By Emily Henderson for this. The idea behind this challenge is for you to actually make something you have pinned, since it is so easy to pin and pin and pin and pin without ever setting aside time to do something you thought was super cool. So, even though I've been pinning for barely over a day, I'm going to do it too and post my complete project on the August 2nd "deadline" of the challenge.

Here are a few pins I'm thinking of doing (nothing extravagant since I'm getting on board a little late):

Look out for August 2nd's post and until then, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the icon below! You should join the challenge too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Homemade Cards Giveaway from His & Hers!

A very long while back, I posted about my TBF List. Never heard of one? Well, it stands for To Be Finished. Mine's quite long, but not nearly as long as my To Start List - which probably shouldn't be so long, considering I haven't finished some things I've started.

On this ever-growing-mostly-thanks-to-the-million-creative-blogs To Start List, is Make a stash of homemade cards. for the following reasons:
  1. As adorable as some Hallmark cards are, $4-5 isn't in my budget. They're so incredibly marked up.
  2. Stash-busting: my scrapbook paper/embellishment stash is nearly out of hand.
  3. I love handmade cards: making, giving, getting. The whole shabang.
  4. I never have a card on hand for the occasion. (I did make a load of thank you cards for my friend as a baby shower gift a few months ago.)
  5. I want to write more thank-you notes for every day appreciation I have for others. (I'll post on this more, later.)

That all being said, this morning while visiting one of my favorite bloggers, the hilarious and very talented Erin at His & Hers, I saw this post. It was a great reminder and inspiration for me to get a stash of handmade cards made. I know if I sit down and do it, it won't take too long! Plus, I love making them. She's giving the 4 below away to a reader, so go check them out!

She is such a sweet person and her posts make me laugh every time. I'm 99% sure we'd be friends in real life. (Hopefully, she doesn't find that idea too stalker-ish.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

5 Things to Make with Fresh Strawberries

I just love berry season and am so thankful I live in a part of the country with an abundance of berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, black raspberries, boysenberries, marionberries, logan berries and of course, strawberries! Whew. This week, I think we are going to go pick some raspberries. Until then, here's a recap of the yummy, fresh strawberry recipes I made using our 17 pound haul of the pretty red berries.

Strawberry Syrup Recipe Comparisons

Strawberry Cream Cheese

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
I didn't make jam because my Grammy beat me to it, which means the whole family had plenty for the rest of the year. I did want to try the cream cheese stuffed strawberries I see all over blog land. Or the patriotic, red, white and blue strawberries (dipped in white chocolate then dipped in blue sprinkles).

This past weekend was the Oregon Berry Festival in Portland. I so wish I would have been able to go. However, this weekend was jam packed with a family reunion (6 hours driving round trip) and wedding of a long time friend. Hopefully next year!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Speechless Sunday: Born in the USA

I know, I'm a week late as the Women's World Cup is over. It was a heartbreaking final to watch, but still so much fun. I just had to share this, cause who doesn't love a "Keep Calm..." design?

via tumblr

Also, I'm partial to Megan Rapinoe, as she is a University of Portland alum, too! This poster is in reference to this awesomely hilarious video.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Easy Peasy English Muffin Pizzas

In any sort of dinner rut? My sister and I fondly recall these English Muffin Pizzas from grade school hot lunches (that were only once a week, the other 4 days, you had to pack your own). These are sooooo easy. No wonder the parent volunteers, who did the once a week hot lunches, made them. Your kiddos can help make their own too! This way not everyone has to have the same toppings - very customizable.

Grab some English Muffins next time you're at the store. (You could be healthier than us and get some whole wheat ones.) Then, just get some toppings together, including the usual pizza sauce and cheese. We added turkey pepperoni to ours. Next time I'm cutting up some ham and adding pineapples. My fave.

Assemble your mini pizzas, place on cookie sheet and broil until cheese melts. Add a few veggies and you're all done, a quick and easy meal in minutes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Must Make Banana Bread

You've had the thought. The one that says don't throw those far-beyond-ripe bananas away, make banana bread with them. I can still remember when my mom informed me that the brown bananas I would never dare eat, let alone touch, were the perfect kind to make banana bread. 

We had some of those brown 'naners in our fruit bowl that needed used ASAP, so I tried a new recipe and let me tell you, it is to die for.

Monkey Squares
by TheWelcomeMat via The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ¾ cups (3 or 4) ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour 10x15 jelly roll pan. Beat first four ingredients until creamy. Blend in bananas and vanilla one minute. Add dry ingredients and blend one minute. Stir in nuts and spread in pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool and frost with Browned Butter Frosting (recipe below).

Banana bread option: Instead of spreading into jelly roll pan, this recipe will make about two regular loaves of banana bread, or about four small loaves. Regular loaves bake about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Small loaves will bake about 25 minutes on 350.

Browned Butter Frosting
½ cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
about 3 tablespoons milk or half and half

Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat past the melting point until it boiling, and a delicate brown. Remove from the heat and immediately add the remaining ingredients. This should be thicker than a glaze and thinner than frosting. Using a spatula smooth over the top of the Monkey Squares immediately. The frosting will be easier to spread once it's on the warm bread.

Super moist bread and a frosting I had never made before: Brown Butter Frosting. Mmmm-m. I wish you could taste this combination via the picture. I'm not joking. See, my niece Addison, had to get every last bit from the frosting bowl.

With the frosting, it is really more like cake, or as the recipe calls them: Monkey Squares. If you're a regular reader, it's no surprise, this is yet another recipe from my favorite food blogger Christy, also known as The Girl Who Ate Everything. It's not her original recipe, but after tasting these, I know why they are a family favorite at her house. All it took was one taste and I was sold. Try it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

I wanted to make these for the Scentsy Cake Party my friend Michelle hosted last weekend, but had a disaster of a time attempting to make strawberry buttercream from Martha. I think part of the problem was patience. And maybe lack of a candy thermometer. Too complicated for me. I didn't give up though, and found another recipe to work with and, voila, here they are.

To make these, first, take a lemon cake mix and follow the directions on the back of the box up until you pour in your desired pan, in this case, a muffin tin. Add 1 Tablespoon (or a little more) of poppy seeds to your batter and fold them all in. Bake as directed.

For the frosting, I tried this recipe with much better results than my first attempt at Martha's. I did alter it slightly. Here it is:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/4 cup strawberries, pureed*
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

*Next time I will use 1/3 cup, or even 1/2 cup, pureed strawberries to achieve a stronger strawberry flavor. The lemon cupcakes were just a little stronger and overpowered the strawberries.

Cream softened butter for about 3 minutes on slow, until smooth. Add strawberry puree and vanilla. Mix until combined. It will not seem perfectly combined, but smoothed together. Slowly add powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached - thicker for piping, thinner for spreading. I added just shy of 4 cups. Then, I used a Wilton 1M tip (my favorite) to pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes. This recipe will frost about 12 regular cupcakes if using Wilton 1M tip, as it makes approximately 2 cups of frosting, give or take.

As tasty as these were, next time, I think I'll make some chocolate cupcakes and add the strawberry frosting, then garnish with a slice or two of fresh strawberry.

For more delectable sweet cupcake treats, check out this Cupcake only link party:

Confessions of a SAHM

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sand in the City

I spent this past weekend in Portland with the Waters family and my oldest friend from preschool (!) Stephanie. We went to Sand in the City in Pioneer Square which is a 3 day event where sand teams/architects construct sculptures out of 450 tons of sand and 4,500 tons of water in 6 hours. It was my first time and I was very impressed with the sand sculptures. Check them out! (All photo credit goes to Michelle Waters.)

My niece would have loved this scene. Ellie even recognized it, exclaiming "Doh."

"D D D D D Dora"

"I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map!" (Ingenious song lyrics. Must have ripped off Blue's Clues.)
Best friend Boots.

"Swiper, no swiping."

Not quite the movie, but a little more Harry Potter entertainment...

There were more, but now I want to share a couple adorable pics of Miss Ellie.

This balloon reminds me of Christopher Robins' in Winnie the Pooh.

This whole event benefited Impact Northwest. Their mission is dedicated to helping people achieve and maintain self-sufficiency and to prevent and alleviate the effects of poverty. Admission was by donation. It was a fun event to be a part of!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tiny Watermelon Obsession

And by tiny, I mean ginormous. And instead of obsession, I'll opt for inspiration. For some reason, I can't get enough of the super cute watermelon creativity all over.

You may recall the post where I made these mini cupcakes. Check out this flickr pic of so many more insanely cute watermelon cupcakes. Oh, the possibilities!

I considered making cookies in the same fashion, but decided dying dough green and more frosting pink would probably be an overdose on my ingestion quota of the super healthy food color dyes. ;)

Instead, I made these watermelon cake pops. First cake pop try ever!

I saw awesome watermelon waffles from Kelli at Random Thoughts of a Supermom. And had to make my own (for dinner of course) while my friend Jo was visiting!

And for a little more inspiration from around the web...

Wilton never disappoints, with this "less frosting is more" version of a watermelon cake.

And, a twist on the idea of watermelon cupcakes, except that they are not cake, but actual watermelon in cupcake liners, courtesy of Alexis from Jaco'lyn Murphy.

Photo credit: Alexis at Jaco'lyn Murphy

Super adorable summer time treat: sherbert stuffed limes made by Katie at This Chick Cooks.

Photo credit: Kaite at This Chick Cooks

Oh geez. I'll stop soon. Promise. But first, check out this watermelon lemonade from one of my favorite bloggers, Alison at Oopsy Daisy! I wish I had super cute stemware to make it look awesomely watermelony. Mmmm!

Photo credit: Allison at Oopsey Daisy
If you simply can't wait to carve pumpkins, try this: watermelon carving! Rachel shows you how to step by step on her blog, Sun Scholars. I can only imagine what a hit this would be at your next potluck. Doesn't look too hard either.

Photo credit: Rachel at Sun Scholars

And stepping away from food, look at this adorable watermelon wreath from Mel at The Crafty Scientist! I absolutely love her blog. It is so helpful and super well organized. Plus, she started her blog about the same time I did and is a PhD student. She's quite amazing!

Photo credit: Mel at The Crafty Scientist

I can't believe how uhhhhdorable this watermelon skirt is! She posted a tutorial, too! Yippee! (The photo below has pins in the seeds still. It was the only one that didn't have her little girl in it. Go check it out to see the full skirt in action on her cute little model!)

Photo credit: Rachel at Sun Scholars

Too cute! Okay, I'll be done. Go ahead and share a link in a comment if you have watermelon inspiration to share! I want to see!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Speechless Sunday: Powell's City of Books

I've become fairly good at the concept of Speechless Sunday and not posted much, if any, commentary along with my pictures, but I've got to gush about this one, just smidge. I went here today. And it never fails to leave me speechless.

Copyright Stephen Leflar

If you have never been to Portland, Oregon, this can be the first thing on your "Why to Visit Portland" list: Powell's City of Books. It is one of the biggest bookstores in the world, independently owned and operated in the Pearl District. It's incredible - more than a million new, used and rare books fill an entire city block, 3 stories high. I get lost. And love every minute of it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Strawberry Syrup Recipe Comparison

Thanks to picking a million 17 pounds of strawberries, I had to find plenty of uses before having to freeze the leftovers (as you may have noticed the handful of strawberry related posts lately). I wanted to try and make my own strawberry syrup. Google magic. First I tried this recipe from It wasn't bad, quite yummy actually, just not as syrup like as I was thinking it would be. It was more like jam. Really simple to make with only three ingredients: strawberries (mashed), sugar and water.

Then, I tried Emeril's recipe from the Food Network. It has some pretty spectacular reviews, but it still wasn't what I was hoping for. It did taste different than the first (in a good way!) because there is a different ingredient than the first recipe: strawberries (diced), orange juice and zest. Again, I was hoping for a more syrup consistency.

Pictures are of Emeril's recipe only, simply because the final products are too hard to distinguish in a photo. They just taste a little different.

I wanted to try this recipe from but needed to save strawberries for other recipes. And frankly, I was tired of cutting/hulling, boiling/simmering and being bummed to have two more pints of strawberry jam-like "syrup", in addition to the multiple jars of jam Grammy gave me. The photo with the recipe looks more like the syrupy texture I was hoping for.

Maybe next berry picking round! Anyone have any tips or a killer syrupy, syrup recipe I could try? 
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