Saturday, July 31, 2010

Birthday Mail!

I got birthday mail! Oh boy, do I love surprises!

Mary Ann from Very Mary sent me these adorable kitchen towels!

And Jill from Life With Nature Girl sent me this adorable apron she created from a thrift store find.

since I'm a Mad Hatter fan, she included this composition book ...

and knowing how I love handmade bookmarks, she included a special one for me...along with a zipper bag for my crochet hooks...and a lovely handmade card.

Thank you both for thinking of me! I love it all!!!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Birdies and bingo!

I was in 2 bird swaps this summer and had fun creating some different things for them...

Here is what I sent Amy in Lori's swap:

The birdie decoration tutorial is here...

Here is what Amy made me! I wear that owl necklace constantly! The little handmade boxes held packs of m&ms, my fav!

And here is what I made for Missy in Noodlebubble's swap:

Here is what Missy made me!

I also joined Lori's bingo challenge...I donated an apron to be a door prize and ended up winning a few goodies myself!

The earrings are from Sherri, the "Buster Brown" pin cushion is from Fran, the apron and head kerchief are from Amy, the rose pin is from Molly and the bracelet is from Lori herself! WOW! I like winning stuff!
Thank you ladies, everything is just lovely!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

time flies.......

Our computer got messed up awhile back during a hard drive upgrade.
Our picasa folders got lost too....thank goodness Dean had backed up most of them. (we lost a lot of photos though.)
I wanted to see if I could recreate folders and started going through the photos. Of course, I got lost in memories and ended up going through ALL of them one by one.
Before long, I was crying, I am such a sap!
Every mother knows that time passes quickly. But knowing it and saying it is totally different than SEEING it.

And nothing blares it out at you as quickly and assuredly as a photograph.

I wish we could all just slow down and hold each other a little longer.....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Family Fun Day!

Dean wanted us all to see his office after it was painted so we took the kids to NOLA. We decided to make a day of it and spent the day downtown having fun...eating....and eating...and going to the Insectarium!

We went there thinking it would be a quick in and out....we planned on hitting the aquarium too. NO CHANCE OF THAT! It took us a little over 2 hours to get through it all.

I was truly impressed with how well the exhibits were done and ended up taking 177 photos. It was hard trying to pare them down to share just a few on this post.

Throughout, they incorporated buggy stuff into the decor:

They had venus flytrap chandeliers

Pitcher plant wall sconces

Chrysalis light fixtures....

and dragonfly fans!
they included a little humor at the Dung beetle exhibit by placing it between the bathrooms! I don't know how many people saw the irony in that but I sure did! HA!

There were several interactive exhibits and a bug bakery cafe where they gave out samples..and sold food with bugs in it. Lucky for us, we ate at Superior Grill right before getting there so no one was hungry.

They had volunteers everywhere showing people is a male Madagascar hissing roach....his back felt like plastic.....he had cute little horns. Too bad he'd be dead in my house!

In the butterfly and beetle exhibit, they used specimens to create works of art...

I was so saddened to read how many of these lovely creatures are close to extinction now due to deforestation.

Several specimens were a big as a dinner plate.

all were breathtakingly beautiful

Dean kept making Beatle jokes throughout the day....and continued on his facebook page....

The butterfly garden was the last exhibit and had all types of butterflies flying all over. I only got a few good photos in here because they were all fluttering around!

Here is my favorite...I can't believe I took it with my little camera.

These are truly more beautiful than gemstones to me. Of course, now Dean thinks he can stick a dead butterfly on the wall for our next anniversary!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Val's Fresh Strawberry Cake

There's a new sheriff in town...and its called FRESH STRAWBERRY CAKE!

We used to live in Baton Rouge and got a great strawberry cake from a local bakery.    It was heavenly and we got it for every birthday and for any other reason we could think of.
When we moved to Texas, I even ordered it few times but it was so expensive to ship that I eventually quit and started researching recipes online.
They all had jello in them...yuck. Not a fan of jello.  Besides, the icing was the started playing around with making my own icing.

Over the years I perfected it, and now, Dean doesn't even buy the 'original' when he is in Baton Rouge because this one is so good....and less expensive.
The ingredients are super simple, it is the process that is important.

I've made it with 2 types of boxed cakes and they are both is a little breakdown:

The one made with yellow cake is dense and very moist...perfect in my humble opinion.
It is not quite as sweet as the white cake below. 

 This is my favorite....sweet but not TOO sweet with a tiny tang from the berries...perfect.

This one is made with white cake mix and is fluffier and lighter...and sweeter...sort of like angel food cake. I think it is too sweet but Dean and both kids say THIS one is their favorite!

Whichever you choose, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. 

Val's Fresh Strawberry Cake

First :
1 box cake mix (yellow or white)
Bake cake in 2 round pans according to directions on box, set aside to cool.

For the icing, you put it together is important, don't skip steps.

2 cups fresh whole strawberries cleaned, hulled and set aside. Do NOT cut them yet.  (I buy 2 pints in case some strawberries are not ripe or are over ripe.)

8 oz softened neufchatel cream cheese 
12 oz. cool whip original
1/2 cup granulated sugar* you may need a bit more if the strawberries are not at their peak sweetness.

1. In bowl, mix the cream cheese until light and fluffy, add sugar and continue beating.
2. Reserve 1-3 of the prettiest berries and set aside. 
3.  Slice 1/2 of the berries and chop 1/2. Basically, you'll have 1 cup of sliced and 1 cup of chopped berries.

4. Take the chopped strawberries and put into the bowl and mix well. The cream cheese mixture will turn slightly pink.  DON'T over process or it will get overly runny. Just mix it until it is uniform in color but still chunky.  A couple minutes is all it takes.

5. Add 1/2 of the cool whip and mix a teeny 2 turns of the mixer.
6. Put the sliced berries into the bowl a teeny bit again to incorporate them.
7. Fold remaining cool whip in. *Taste for sweetness and carefully fold in more sugar if needed.

8. Starting with the bottom round, ice the cake being generous with the icing in between the layers.

9.  Add sliced strawberries to the top of this layer if you like.  We do!

9. Top with the 2nd round and frost the rest of the cake, covering the sides and top. 
 Instead of slicing the top to make it even, I flip it over.  The frosting fills in all the ridges and saves you a step.  Plus, I hate to waste cake!

I put lots of icing on top to start with.
and use this to do the actual great.

10. Garnish with the reserved strawberries.

If you have leftovers, make room in the refrigerator for this cake.  

***Once you add the cool whip only FOLD the frosting from that point on or it will over process and break down and you won't be able to ice the cake with it. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Gray Mare

Before having children, I had horses for several years. Even though I don't have that luxury any longer, they are never far from my mind. The other day I woke up with this short story in my head so I wrote it down.
Admittedly, I'm no 'writer' but I did like this and decided I would post it with Curly Girl's latest picture...

It is a cold night.
The moon is bright and full; it is still and quiet in the barn.

The gray mare is older now. She is lovely.
She has seen many seasons on the circuit. Over the years, she has been handled by many; groomed and braided to look lovely in the show ring.
Tonight, she has only one braid and it is in her tail.

In the past, she traveled far distances to competitions. She didn't know what the purpose was but she enjoyed it and it made her owner, Kate, happy.
After competing, Kate would reach down and vigorously pat her neck with excitement. Later, she would groom and pat her gently.
She has been with Kate for as long as she can remember. Kate is there in the morning and in the evening; on hot days with cool baths and cold nights with warm rugs. The gray mare loves Kate.

Her days are spent in the training arena. She is not a working mount for novice young riders. She is Kate's mount. This is their time together. They are in the center of the ring and she enjoys it.

But that is day.
And this is night.

And the gray mare is in an unfamiliar box.

She is not alone.
Kate is close by, she can smell her. Nothing can mask Kate's scent.
But there is another scent.
Him. He is the one with the soft voice and gentle hands. She knows him from countless visits. He would often feel her legs and click his tongue at her.
They are quiet but the gray mare can hear them whisper sometimes. They say things like 'not yet', 'nothing is happening.'
These are not words she hears often enough to understand so she dismisses them.

The gray mare is older now. She is restless.
She has no memory of feeling this way but knows something is about to happen. and it makes her nervous. She does not like being in this box with different smells; smells of others before her.

Time passes and it is late when the gray mare feels the first pain.
She tries to get comfortable by laying down, but no amount of soft shavings will make her comfortable just now.
She struggles to her feet and shifts her weight but that doesn't bring comfort either.
She lies down again. Even on this cold night, there is a sheen of sweat on her neck.

She hears a noise and looks as the stall door creaks open.
It is Kate. She says 'easy.' This is a word she knows so she lays her head down for a moment. Kate is with her as she begins to push a minute later. There are whispers of encouragement and soft caresses. She pushes again and once more.

Kate gets up quickly and moves out of the way as the gray mare gets to her feet. There are soft words and nickers. The words are 'well done Bella' and 'beautiful Bella.'
These are words the gray mare knows well and hears often. These are words accompanied by pats on the neck. As Kate strokes her, the gray mare turns toward her foal. He is wet and dark and his scent is the same as her own.

The stall door opens again and the gray mare is alert now. But it is the one with the soft voice and gentle hands. He walks up and touches her, walking all around her without taking his hands off her. He touches her foal and smiles.
All is as it should be.

The gray mare is older now. She is tired.
She has jumped many hurdles in her life, but this is her biggest. She has had many accomplishments, but this is her best. The gray mare does not know she is a champion. She does not know the sire of her foal is a champion. She does not know there are great expectations for the foal standing beside her.
She knows that right now, she is tired and that her foal is hungry. She knows that tomorrow, when the sun is warm and the grass is sweet, it will be good.

The gray mare is older now. She is content.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Facing Fifty

"50" used to sound so OLD...but now, I'm not so sure!

My family is so good to me!

I got lots of hugs....

and good kisses too!

it was a WONDERFULLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! know your husband loves you when he walks in to show you this cutie that he saved from the dreaded grill....
I'm one lucky girl!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

catching up...

Over the last 2 weeks I made a few things but couldn't post them because our computer was in the shop...

Here is a little top I crocheted for Curly Girl....

I bought the pattern here and had used it several years ago for another top that she has since outgrown. The pattern stopped several sizes too small but was so easy to enlarge! I'm glad I did it.

I made some crocheted birdies....I got the pattern here. The kids call them 'taco birds.'

I also made an apron for a Bingo game Lori hosted. I made it from a tea towel I'd found a couple years ago. It turned out so cute!

I made Gunter...he was part of June's YOE challenge...we had to take him to a 4th party. I wrote about his naughty behavior here so you may have already heard about him...

I made some bookmarks for a swap. I adore handmade bookmarks....much better than torn up slips of paper! I like the fish thong. I cut up a vintage (I know, don't fuss) playing card to make it. The mushroom has a quote on the back and fits over the top of the page.

I also made some snails for July's YOE. I modified this pattern and really love how they turned out. I'm definitely keeping a few for myself!

What have you made lately?
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