Green Velvet Cake

Saturday, August 29, 2015

I recently made this cake per request for Jaxon's birthday. Each year, we serve bakery cupcakes for birthday party guests (to avoid any potential food allergy reactions), and the birthday boy gets to choose whatever cake he wants for me to make for him to share with the family later that same week.

This also allows us to extend birthday celebrations a little longer, which is fine by me because 1) my boys are truly worth celebrating BIG and 2) more cake! ;-)

This year, I was given very specific instructions to make a "red velvet cake - except make it green." Well, since the only thing that makes a red velvet cake "red" is the food coloring, I figured that wouldn't be too hard to do.



Green Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 oz. green food coloring
Cream Cheese frosting (recipe follows)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans. Set aside.
  2. Place all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix together well with a wire whisk. Set aside.
  3. Lightly beat eggs in a separate medium bowl with wire whisk. Add remaining liquid ingredients and stir together with whisk until blended.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with electric mixer on medium-high for about a minute or until completely combined.
  5. Divide batter evenly into cake pans. Drop the pans on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.
  6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Then, loosen the sides of the cakes from the pans and turn out onto cooling racks for another 10 minutes. 
  8. Frost with Cream Cheese frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla

  1. Combine butter, vanilla, and cream cheese. Cream until light and fluffy.
  2. Add confectioner's sugar a little at a time, mixing after each addition until combined.
  3. Apply to cool cake as per directions above.


Notes:

To make a red velvet cake, my recipe calls for 2 oz. red food coloring (probably because red is such a hard color to achieve and 1 oz. would result in pink).


We made this as a birthday cake, and it would certainly fit the bill for Incredible Hulk or Oscar the Grouch fans BUT keep this cake in mind as an alternative to red velvet for Christmas (think Grinch!) or as a yummy treat for St. Patrick's Day. The possibilities are endless!

Help Make the World's Biggest Stocking

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Do you knit or crochet? 

Long time blog followers know that my craft of choice is crochet, but Yarnspirations is asking crafters of both groups to help them make the World's Biggest Stocking, which will be recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.


They've estimated that they will need between 3,000 to 4,000 blankets to assemble the finished stocking.

If you participate, you will be a part of history AND you will have helped a worthy charity! Proceeds from the effort will help support the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation.


Here's how you can help:




1. Choose a pattern for a 3' x 3' square blanket. (Finished edges of the blanket must be straight, so no ripple, round, or otherwise shaped patterns for this project, please.) 

If you've already started on your own Christmas presents for the year and feel like you don't have time to add one more thing to the list, give this Granny Square Blanket a try. It's a free pattern and you'd only need to add a few more rows of the main pattern to get it to the required size. (And, make sure to leave off the decorative picot trim per the submission requirements.)

If you have a little more time and want to be more creative, give these free crochet patterns a try:


2. Buy your yarn. You can use any worsted weight yarn that you want for this project. However, you are encouraged to use Caron United Yarn. That's because 15 cents of every skein of Caron United Yarn purchased goes to the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which helps provide college scholarships to the children of military personnel who died in service to this country. 

Red, white, and/or green yarn is preferred for this project, but they are accepting blankets in any color. Caron United Yarn is made in the USA.

3. Craft your blanket. They will accept knit or crochet blankets, so get working!

4. Submit your project. When you're finished with your blanket, submit it with your project to one of these addresses:

USA:
Caron United – World’s Biggest Stocking Project
1481 West 2nd Street
Washington, NC 27889-4157

Canada:
Caron United – World’s Biggest Stocking Project
1700 Basset Ave.
Listowel, ON
N4W 0B1 

Donated blankets will be stitched together to form the World's Biggest Stocking. When the project comes to an end, the stocking will be disassembled and blankets will be donated to military families. 

For those who might be wondering, 36" square blankets make the perfect size for baby and toddler blankets and that is the size blanket that I most often make as a gift for new moms.

5. Spread the word*. Make sure you share this post with friends who craft so that they have plenty of time to join in on the action. Yarnspirations will continue to accept donations until they have enough blankets to assemble the stocking (so don't feel like you have to rush to get one completed), but do think about purchasing a few skeins of the Caron United Yarn for the project and maybe stitching up a blanket for this worthy cause.

Those interested can check the progress of how many blankets Yarnspirations has received toward their goal of making the stocking at the Stocking Tracker.

If you choose to participate, make sure to show it off with this blog badge and use the hashtag #WorldsBiggestStocking when showing off your project on social media.


*Note: If you're a member of any knit-alongs, crochet-alongs, classes, or crafting groups, this would be a wonderful charity project to work on in a group setting.

Lexi's Latest Jams: You've Got Time

Friday, August 21, 2015

This really is Lexi's latest jam.  She picked it herself.  And it's the funniest thing ever watching her when this song comes on.  It is the opening/ theme song to the Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black (OITNB).  



For those who aren't in the know, it's a dark comedy about life inside a women's prison.  And it's in it's third season on Netflix.  John and I started watching it last year, and we were hooked.  When the new season went live in June, we were there again, and have watched all summer.  

Whenever the opening song comes on, Lexi drops whatever she is doing and runs to the tv to watch. She is glued to it until the song ends and then she returns to whatever she was previously doing.  I think it must be all the faces that she is looking at.  Silly, silly girl.  Here's the video.  What do you think?  Why else would a 15 month old be so enamored with this?


In any case, I really do also like this song.  It was written specifically for the series by Regina Spektor and was even nominated for a Grammy.  As always, here are the lyrics for you.

The animals, the animals

Trapped, trapped, trapped 'till the cage is full
The cage is full
Stay awake
In the dark, count mistakes
The light was off but now it's on
Searching the ground for a bitter song
The sun is out, the day is new
And everyone is waiting, waiting on you
And you've got time
And you've got time

Think of all the roads

Think of all their crossings
Taking steps is easy
Standing still is hard
Remember all their faces
Remember all their voices
Everything is different
The second time around

Animals, the animals

Trapped, trapped, trapped 'till the cage is full
The cage is full
Stay awake
In the dark, count mistakes
The light was off but now it's on
Searching the ground for a bitter song
The sun is out, the day is new
And everyone is waiting, waiting on you
And you've got time
And you've got time
And you've got time




Share A Coke

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

For YEARS, my husband has told me that I am a marketer's dream come true.  If there is a good or catchy promotion out there, I jump on the bandwagon faster than you can blink.  And such is the case with this summer's Share a Coke campaign.



You know the one.  You can't pass a Coke cooler without seeing rows of bottles with names on the side of them. And yes, I always pause to see if by some chance my name has magically appeared in a cooler near me.  Alas, it has not.  But that rarely stops my from grabbing a Coke anyway, usually always with someone else's name on the side.  No bother. I'm sure that's exactly what Coke wants you to do!

For those who can't find their own names, surely you can still scope out a Coke that "describes" you. Here are the Harris Sisters striking a pose with our "Sister" Coke cans over this year's Girls' Weekend. 


 And then my very own Superstar found a Coke can that was seemingly made just for her.





But as luck would have it, one Harris Sister really DID find a bottle with her name on it.  I mean, what are the chances?  Especially when your name is Misty...  But they are out there, and here's the proof.  


For those of you who are still searching for your own Coke bottle, look no further.  The Share A Coke Website  allows you to purchase your very own Coke bottle with any name you choose on the side. They will custom make a bottle for you for $5.  And they are the real glass Coke bottles.  You can also design your own virtual bottle to share on social media sites, and you can look up names to see if they are already in circulation on a Coke bottle somewhere out there. In addition, you can peruse the volumes of photos that people have submitted with their Coke bottles this summer.  To add your photo to the ranks, share it on social media with the hashtag #shareacoke.  Coke says you may see your photo on their website or even on a billboard, so submit your best efforts!

And did I order my own bottle from Coke?  You betcha I did, as well as those for hubby and Babydoll too.  Per the Coke website, all our names are in circulation already, but if I haven't even been able to find a "John" yet, I hold out little hope for "Lexi" and even less for "Deanna".  In any case, we have our bottles now.  And this Coke fan is a happy camper.  But hey, if you do happen to find a "Deanna" bottle, share a photo with me, okay?



Dog Days of Summer Party

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Well, it's that time of year again where the Walkush family goes into full on party and event planning mode through the remainder of the year.

First up is always Jaxon's birthday. This year, he requested a puppy or dog themed birthday party. Considering his birthday is smack dab in August, which is still very hot in North Carolina, I thought we'd invite all of the kids over for a few hours of Slip 'N Slide and call it a "Dog Days of Summer" party.

Here are the details:

Invitation

I turned to Evite for a free email invitation. They have a ton of themes to choose from, and wouldn't you know that dog, puppy, paw print was one of them? Make sure to check them out for any theme party you might have. I think you'd be surprised at how many themes they have! And they keep track of the guest list for you, which is very convenient when you're doing the rest of the party planning.


Menu

For the menu, we served standard party fare and then labelled it creatively. We had a few special dog themed treats mixed in:

  • Cupcakes (pupcakes)
  • Potato chips (paw-tato chips)
  • Chex Mix (puppy chow)
  • Scooby Snacks (these are dog bone shaped graham crackers that you can purchase at your local grocery store)
  • Dog Treats (Scooby Doo gummy snacks)
  • Walkers Dog Shaped Shortbread Cookies (these are dog shaped cookies that you can purchase at your local grocery store)
  • Red and blue Kool-Aid Jammers (to match the color scheme of the decorations)




The Scooby Snack graham crackers turned out to be the perfect toppers for the cupcakes:


The Kool-Aid Jammers fit perfectly into my vintage Cheerwine soda crate (which you've last seen me use as a Christmas decoration):


Decorations

For decorations, I opted to use classroom decor pieces in the Hot Diggity Dogs and coordinating Black, White & Bold design schemes. (The dog and puppy themed party supplies that I had found were either for very young children, were for girls, or were character themed, e.g. Paw Patrol).

So, I used EZ letters, a hole punch, and some cut-outs to create a Happy Birthday Banner:


I hung some extra cutouts from the chandelier and used a few more to create a small banner for the birthday boy's chair:



I labelled large library pockets with letter stickers for the kids to use as their goodie bags:


I used mini cutouts to decorate the food table. I punched 2 1/2" circles of  coordinating yellow card stock and labelled them with each item. Then, I used clear packing tape to attach both the yellow circle and the dog mini cutout to a wooden skewer from the back. 

I cut the skewer for the cupcakes to the same length as the two circles (combined) and then taped the whole thing to the top of the cupcake display stand. I placed the other skewers directly into the bowls holding the goodies.



Activities


The main activity for our Dog Days of Summer party was Slip 'N Slide. I didn't recognize until we set it up that it matched pretty well to the other party decor: teal, yellow, and red. (Long time blog readers might recognize that inflatable dalmatian from our Firefighter/Firetruck Birthday Party!)


Here's the birthday boy on its inaugural slide:


We also had a pinata because my boys just love them! I did find many dog pinata choices, but we ended up choosing a cute brown and white puppy with a teal collar. Remember, pinatas always hold more candy than you think they will, so don't be intimidated by one you think might look small.


And here's our traditional photo of the birthday boy with the pinata remains on his head. :-)


All in all the party was a success, and I need to get crackin' on the next one! Hope this will give you some ideas should you need to plan a dog or puppy themed party in the future.


Happy party planning!

This post contains affiliate links.

Adult Coloring Books

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Have you heard about the latest trend in stress relief?  It's adult coloring books, and they are all the rage!  I have been seeing them everywhere lately.  About a month ago, I ordered one from Amazon. Then, I walked into the book store a couple weekends ago, and there was a huge display of them right up front.  At the craft store earlier this week, I saw still more coloring pages, and then just a few days ago, I saw that Zulily was featuring them too.  I can't turn a corner without seeing them everywhere these days!


Unlike their kiddie counterparts, adult coloring books feature interesting subject matter, usually with detailed and intricate patterns.  They are designed to allow you to zone out on a calming activity while putting your creative juices to good use.  

I now have two of them.  Although I have only started coloring in the folk art book so far.  


Here's a look at my first masterpiece, colored with markers.  There are lots of pages like this, with repeating and symmetrical patterns.  For this page, I repeated my colors through the whole design for a very consistent look. Oh, and if you are using markers, I would recommend putting a blank piece of paper behind your coloring page so the markers don't bleed to other pages. 


And my second page- I also used markers on this one.  I feel like Dr. Seuss might just live in this little village. I left a few pieces of this one uncolored for a little more negative space.  And I really like how it turned out. 


My most recent page is one that I completed with crayons.  I feel like I have more color options with crayons, but they have to be sharpened to get in those small spaces and patterns. 


I'm finding that each page so far takes me a couple hours to complete and I definitely don't finish them all in one sitting.  But that's the nice part about it.  You can always come back to it.  It's not a race to finish- it's supposed to be relaxing, remember?  When you are out of time or are no longer feeling inspired, just put it down and save it for another peaceful time.  I've been coloring before bedtime, and it really does put me in a very calm state at the end of the day. 

Anyone else out there giving these books a try?  I'm thinking this is the perfect activity for the cooler fall and winter days ahead.  I always loved coloring as a kid.  I guess some things just never change!

How to Make Your Very Own "Straight Outta" Meme

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Everyone is straight outta somewhere. 


The Harris Sisters, as I'm sure long-time blog readers know, are straight outta Roxboro, North Carolina. AKA The Boro.


Of course, half of the fun of creating a meme is uploading pictures and adding silly text like these:

2014 Halloween Fairy Tale Photoshoot

2014 Minecraft Halloween Costumes

2010 Movie Monsters Halloween Costumes

Disney World Tips and Tricks: The Basics

2013 Junk Food Halloween Costumes
So, we've established we're cornballs. But, don't worry! You can be too!

To celebrate the upcoming NWA biopic that will be released later this week, Beats by Dre released this Meme Generator that allows users to upload their own photo and enter their own location to indicate where they're "straight outta." The meme, of course, refers to NWA's debut album, Straight Outta Compton. 

Check it out here: straightouttasomewhere.com 

Pretty cool! Have fun coming up with your own fun memes - the possibilities are endless!

How to Choose the Perfect Anniversary Gift

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ryan and I just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. And when we first got married, we starting buying each other the "traditional" wedding anniversary gift each year. (Hey! We were newlyweds, and we figured that's what you were supposed to do.)


Let me tell you a few things that we've noticed in the 16 years we've been doing this: 
  1. There are two lists, a traditional and a modern. You can see both full lists at anniversariesbyyear.com
  2. I don't know who came up with these lists, but there's some downright ODD stuff on them. ;-) And, many, many of the items are not suited at all as anniversary gifts for men.
  3. Sometimes the traditional gift is SO VERY ODD that it might be in your best interest to go with the modern gift.
  4. We Walkushes are not ones to back down from a challenge, so we've gotten awfully creative some years. And as it turns out, those gifts have often been the most memorable.

So, I thought I'd bring you some tips for how to choose a creative and unique anniversary gift.
  1. Choose your target gift item and use word association to help you think outside the box.
  2. Brainstorm ideas that are associated with that item.
  3. First, think big and then think BIGGER.
  4. Remember, even something that is loosely associated with the gift, if presented correctly, can be very memorable (even more so than something that is "by the book").

This was my thought process and what I ended up giving Ryan this year. My options for gifts this year for 16th anniversary were wax (traditional), silver hollow ware (modern), or peridot (modern).

I immediately decided to try for silver hollow ware because wax, what?, why?, and peridot, no. So, with that target gift in mind, I immediately changed silver hollow ware to anything that is silver and hollow. From there, I racked my brain to come up with what silver hollow thing I could give to Ryan. I came up with bullets and trains.

I searched online and found a train that I could buy a day trip on through the mountains, but it wasn't silver. Shoot! So, then I wondered how could I make this train related to silver (because that still sounded like a really fun trip and we're at a point in our life that we don't need any more "stuff" even if it is silver stuff). 

I thought and thought a little more, and the more I thought about it and researched nearby hotel accommodations should we want to make this a whole weekend trip, I found out that the nearest hotel to this train was in Tennessee. Guess who was really good at history and remembers at this point to check the order in which the states joined the Union? (Yours truly!) As luck would have it, Tennessee was number 16!

I felt like that was a sign - for real. So, I made the arrangements for the weekend trip because I could see the whole anniversary trip coming together as a game of Monopoly!


I customized a free printable Chance card and a Community Chest card that specifically mentioned the train ride and the trip to Tennessee in Monopoly lingo. 


I wrote a poem that included parts of the game and designed it to look like a large Railroad Property Card. 


I set the whole thing up on our Monopoly game board for Ryan to find when he came home from work. 


Have you spotted the "silver hollow ware" yet? The pieces from the Monopoly game are TECHNICALLY silver and hollow. ;-) The might be a little tarnished from years of use (this is the Harris Sisters' original Monopoly game from when we grew up), but I've lived up to my end of the bargain for this year. 


If you'd like to read all about the many ways the world has changed since we got married WAY BACK in 1999, check out this blog post Confessions of a 90's Bride.