Thursday, July 30, 2015

{Renovations} Office Makeover Part 2

The last three weeks have been such a whirlwind.  Technically the major renovations are done (as in, the contractors are done) but now the hard part of putting the house together and refilling the office and new storage areas is underway!

This was the biggest renovation that the Husband and I have gone through, and to say it was stressful is an understatement.

Home Office Renovation Part 2
Remember the before pictures?  Get all the details in Part 1.

A few notes:

- With fresh drywall coming up, I knew that it would get dusty, but had no idea just how dusty it would really be.   It was all over the kitchen, on our garden produce, all over the stair rail, under the sofa; and all over the hardwood floor.  I try to clean up a little bit every night, but quickly felt overwhelmed by trying to keep just the kitchen clean through the process. 


- Hooray for sound resistant insulation!  All new walls to the office had sound dampening insulation added so the Husband won't be too distracted by me and the kids during the day.  (in other words...I can crank the music up while I clean the upper level...which always helps the chores get done so much faster)

Home Office Renovation Soundproof Sound Dampening Insulation

 - Professional painters are amazing.  I've never seen someone cut in with so much precision and so quickly...and no taping!

- Electricians are crazy, necessary, and worth the expense.  It turns out that we had a ceiling fan on a box that wasn't rated for a fan.  Our poor electrician crawled through our attic, in two feet of blown insulation on a 90+ degree day to install a proper fan box.  In addition to fixing a mistake made by a previous electrician, installing a new light switch and a new outlet in our kitchen.  By the way, did I mention he never turned off the power at the box...even after I offered to show them where it was.

- It's important to communicate constantly with your contractor.  I told the contractor what I wanted to do with the shelving in the closet, and they quickly worked with me to make sure that everything would be sturdy for my storage plans. (more definitely to come on that process)

Almost there!

I loved working with a trusted custom contractor.  He and all the subs worked with me on making slight adjustments with the layout to make sure that our furniture fit, and that everything was exactly what we wanted.   And with only four to six weeks left until the little one arrives, I'm glad to have my house back!

What's the biggest renovation you've gone through?
Do you prefer to DIY or use contractors?


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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

{DIY} How to Make a Sprinkle Covered Cake

When we decided to do a sprinkle themed party for L, the first thing I thought of are those awesome sprinkles covered cakes that are all over Pinterest.  But I’d heard repeated stories about how hard it can be to get the sprinkles to stick to the frosting evenly all over the cake. 

Then I remembered another frosting technique I’ve seen all over blogland and just knew that they would work perfectly together to create a fantastic sprinkle-covered cake.  The best part is that this technique is super simple.  I mean really, really simple. 

Side Note:  I won't pretend that my cakes are the most beautiful.  I’m still working on getting nice flat, round cakes, so even though the the finished cake may not be Pinterest perfect, this technique is definitely worth trying


How to Make a Sprinkle Covered Cake

What you need: 

What you need to make a sprinkle covered cake

  • Leveled and/or layered cake ready to frost 
  • Cake circle 
  • LOTS of sprinkles (my extra large cake used about a pound of sprinkles) 
  • Large jelly-roll or rimmed sheet pan 
  • Bowl to hold sprinkles 2 containers of store bought frosting or prepared buttercream in a microwave safe bowl 
  • Offset spatula

Technique

  • Prepare your cake on a cake circle with a crumb coat and let the crumb coat set in the refrigerator for a while. 
  • When the crumb coat has set, bring your cake out and put it in the jelly roll pan.  Let the cake sit for a few minutes.  You don’t want the frosting to melt, but you don’t want it to be so cold that the frosting hardens quickly.  (this may be experience talking....) 
Melting Frosting to Make a Sprinkle Covered Cake

  • Put your frosting in the microwave.  That’s right, nuke that stuff.  I did a full container for about 30 seconds and it was pretty darn smooth.   

How to Make a Sprinkle Covered Cake

  • Drizzle the frosting on the top of your cake and let it run down the sides. (see a beautiful example from Sweet C's Designs
  • Use an offset spatula to smooth out the frosting as much as possible. (I still don’t have that technique down yet, either) 
How to Make a Sprinkles Covered Cake

  • Working quickly, while the frosting is still quite wet and sticky, pour sprinkles on the top of the cake and then use a clean hand to gently push the sprinkles on the top and sides of the cake.  Collect the extra sprinkles in the jelly roll pan and reuse them to go over any bare spots.
  • Repeat until the cake is fully covered in sprinkle goodness!


Honestly, Melting the frosting and pouring it onto the cake helped to keep it nice and sticky.  


Sprinkle Covered Cake


Bonus Tip:  I originally intended to add a ribbon or some large gum balls at the seam between the two tiers of the cake.  If you want to have multiple layers, adding a candy or anything edible will really help to clean it up and make the cake look that much nicer.  (Unfortunately I ran out of time to do that last step - It would have made a huge difference) 

See all the sprinkly goodness from L’s birthday party here!

Have you ever covered a cake or cupcake in sprinkles?
Are there ever enough sprinkles?
What's your #1 cake tip?


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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What if the We Let the Kids Name the Baby?

The Husband and I are in the middle of baby-naming negotiations.  And by negotiations, I really mean each of us rejecting most of the others' suggestions.

It's never been this hard for us before.  We'd like to have a name that respects his family's hispanic heritage, but isn't awkward or difficult in our primarily English speaking country.

Also, I have some pretty southern relatives that wouldn't be able to properly pronounce a Spanish name if their life depended on it.  Maybe it's good our first two were girls, because it was so much easier to find female names that are both wholly Spanish and wholly English.

This time, we're just stuck at an impasse.



So just to lighten the mood one day, T and I sat down with a list of traditional boy names and I let her pick her favorites.  Let's just say she had fun with this exercise.  Her favorite names included:


Benjamin Pete Steven
Buster Quincy Ted
Cletus Randy Walter
Clyde Riley Watson
Floyd Roy Wesley
Harrison Sampson Wilbur
Huey Saul Wyatt
Liam Sebastian Zachariah
Myron Shellington* Zachary
Patrick Stanley

* Not in the baby name book, but T felt a need to add it because she's still in love with The Octonauts.

I don't think we'll be naming this little boy of ours Cletus or Shellington anytime soon, but it was definitely a fun little exercise to go through.

Would you let your kids help in naming a new baby?
What's your favorite name in this list?




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Thursday, July 16, 2015

{Real Parties} It's Raining Sprinkles

This year was L’s first birthday party with other kids from school.  It seems like all of her classmates were born between May and July, because it has been non-stop birthday parties for the last couple months!  With all of the character parties we were going to, I wanted to keep things a bit simpler.  Plus, I couldn’t think of any single thing that she’s loved with consistency.  Until it hit me:  sprinkles.  No matter what, that child loves sprinkles.  All over her cupcakes, ice cream, yogurt, even on cereal (only for very special occasions).  If it has sprinkles on it, she’s likely to try it.

Just like we’ve done for T over the last two years (check out her Splish Splash and Octonauts parties), I was planning on putting out the inflatable pools and having everything in the back yard this time.  Outside parties just feel so much simpler.  And the kids have a ton of fun with the pools.  Mother Nature, it seems, had different ideas.  All week, the forecast called for storms on the day of her party. This meant that I got to spend less time making food and decorations for her party and a lot more time cleaning.  Too much time cleaning.  

Come Saturday the rain came pouring down I was running around preparing foods (since sprinkles dissolve if wet overnight), and reconfiguring our party layout as quickly as I possibly could.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was placing our rug in the entryway right as the first guest was coming in.  Unfortunately this meant that the pictures I did get to take were not satisfactory at all.  *Insert sad trombone*.




I can say that everything...and I mean everything was covered in or decorated with sprinkles.  The best part is that there are so many treats available with sprinkles these days, that I was able to find a bunch of food that was pretty much perfect out of the container.  My favorite were the chocolate donut holes covered in rainbow sprinkles.  You couldn't ask for something more perfect. 
 

And ever since L adamantly changed her mind that everything good is pink, I couldn't help but include the pink and white sprinkle covered animal cookies that T also loved when she was three.  These mini sandwich cookies were also said to have sprinkles in them, but a bed of sprinkles underneath created a perfect (and easy) little platter.



My favorite crafty moments were in creating 'sprinkle covered' popsicle sticks and utensils for everybody to eat.  The popsicle sticks looked so adorable with the sprinkle covered rice krispy treats!



This next shot depresses me so much.  I'm really disappointed in the photo quality, but I just HAD to share.  I always try to include at least one or two healthy items on a party menu.  This time I had greek yogurt tubes (a staple snack in our house) and fruit salad.  Since the party was originally supposed to be outside, I came up with the idea of putting the fruit salad in disposable domed cups (like those used in stores for yogurt parfaits).  An easy little sprinkle swirl in the top kept up the theme, but also kept most of the sprinkles out of the fruit. This picture really doesn't do them justice at all.



Each guest got to leave the party with homemade cookies covered in sprinkles (made using this fantastic sugar cookie recipe) and a swirl lollipop.  The cookies and lollipops were inside glassine bags with a custom printed label and sealed with a bit of washi tape.  Again...easy peasy and so cute!


I took full advantage of pregnancy and didn't plan a single structured activity. Remember, the kids were supposed to be splashing around in our big pool.  Instead, we just opened up the whole house with our bazillion toys and said "let the kids play and have fun!"  Afterward, the Husband commented that he hasn't any other birthday party where the parents interacted with each other so much.  It was really wonderful.


I think it's clear that the birthday girl had fun.  In the end we may not have had the best weather, and my pictures may be horrible this time (so sad!), but it was a good time.  I'm also glad it's over.  I needed a nap for the next two days!  But there's no rest for the weary, T is in full swing planning her 6th birthday party.  Can you believe it?

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