Friday, January 28, 2011

Adorable Purse Cake

This year I again turned to the amazing Betty Crocker web site to inspire an idea for Emma's birthday cake.I am not a professional cake decorator by any means, so I love their easy, creative ideas for putting together a spectacular looking cake that is so much more special than your typical sheet cake. It was between a butterfly cake or this purse, and no surprise, Emma picked the purse. She is a very "girly-girl", so it fit her perfectly. She loved it and was sorry that it had to be cut. :)
Here is a video tutorial below on how to make the purse cake .
(I could not get the specific link to the recipe to work, but if you go to and type "purse cake" into the search box, it is easy to find!).
I would highly reccomend this recipe. It is an adorable cake that any little (or big!) girl would love.
It does not have to be limited to a birthday, would be fitting for Mother's Day or even if you wanted to have a fun tea party with your daughter or a group of friends.
It could even be adapted for a baby shower and the purse could be made to look like a cute diaper bag!

The nice thing about this cake is that you can use your imagination and decorate it however you wish. It's very versatile. The cake in this video is yellow with green trim, wheras the one I made was pink with red trim. I decided I liked how it looked with two handles rather than just one. I could not find the same candy that they used, so I made my "flowers" with Skittles and also studded the pink purse part with realistic looking sugar pearls, which are available in the cake decorating/wedding section.
 I also used Skittles for the clasp closure ontop.
I did not make the matching little coin purse as they did , and so did not need to cut off quite as much of the cake layers on  the bottom--just enough to make a straight edge so that the cake could stand level.
Important: Make sure to put quite a bit of frosting on the bottom of the cake edge before standing up on serving tray. This serves as the "glue" so that it stays firmly upright. I found that it helps to freeze the layers for 30 minutes or so before frosting.
Keep in mind also that it is not a huge cake when complete, so if you are having quite a few people at your party, you may want to make some extra cupcakes to have on the side.

Here is the cake I made:

It was a hit!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Our Emma Grace turned four years old yesterday! It does not seem quite possible that it has been that long since I gave birth to her. Where have the years flown? How has she gone from a tiny newborn to an energetic, talkative girl who loves the colors pink and purple and all things Strawberry Shortcake and princess related??
our little angel, Emma Grace, at 6 weeks
7 months

1 year

2 years

3 years

It's neat to flip through images from her life so far and see how she has grown and changed. Here she is present day:

4 years

Emma and I together. She's tired of all the birthday pictures!

She had such a fun birthday this year! A purse-shaped cake, balloons, a house full of people who love her, games, and a pile of sparkly presents...what more could a little 4 year old girl ask for? :)

I asked her if she liked her birthday,and she answered, "Yes! It was super awesome and amazing!" (she has a very expressive personality already!).

 My wish for my daughter is that she has another wonderful year of life to enjoy. She is such a ray of sunshine. I look forward to being her Mom and getting to watch her grow. What a blessing! We all love her so much!

Happy 4th birthday, sweetheart!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Remember the Innocents

It has now been 38 years since it became legal for a woman to choose to end the life of her unborn child. Since that sad day in America's history, millions and millions of babies have been murdered by abortion. It is truly staggering to pause and think of all of those precious souls who had their right to life ripped from them so prematurely.

They never had the chance to experience a life outside of the womb. They never even got to look into their mother's face.

Let's not forget about them, those innocents who now rest in the arms of Jesus forever.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January Snapshots

The children have been keeping especially busy lately with lots of things...

School work

Reading lots and lots of books

Sledding together
Learning to pray

Making houses out of boxes

Eating cookies

Being silly

Emptying out entire boxes of baby wipes--oops!

Heavy thinking

Painting masterpieces

So, yes, it has been very active around here!
It is  next to impossible  challenging to keep pace with them. :)
They are so inquisitive, so curious to learn,discover, to try new things.
It is exhausting, but a blast all the same.
When I look at these three children,
sometimes I cannot believe that I am really having the blessing of filling the role as their mommy, to watch them grow and change and experience life.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  
The "cubs" with Mama!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Breakfast" for supper?!?

image courtesy of
         In my quest to stream line and organize life in this very busy season, I am quickly coming to the realization that it is important to do things the way that works best for our family. I have read countless books and magazine articles that all promised that if I followed their schedules and charts, I would be able to run the household without a hitch. Unfortunately, those ideas that looked great on paper did not transfer too well to my actual life. I had to discover that each family is unique and what worked for someone else might not necessarily work for me...
....and that it was okay.
         There is alot of pressure on the shoulders of mothers, whether you are a stay-at-home one or not. We are not super women, we are not celebrities who have nannies and personal chefs. We are only human and we do get tired! Instead of racing through life holding a candle that is burning on both ends, I am trying to slow down, and give myself permission to be a wife, a mom, a homemaker in a way that brings glory to God, rather than aiming to meet the expectations of society.
      One aspect of homemaking that seems to demand alot of time and energy is food preparation. Everyone has to eat to live, but so often it seems like everything in our world revolves around food. I want to provide my family with delicious, nourishing, healthy meals, but there is just not enough time to cook elaborate multiple course meals every day.
      Prior to having children, I regularily made detailed spread sheets of meal plans and grocery lists, and even had an impressive stack of new recipes to try every week. But, it is no longer possible for me to do things exactly the same now. When I have hungry little mouths clamoring for food and my time is spread so thinly, I am having to modify my previous approach. This is hard for me, since old habits die hard. :) I still aim to be organized in this area, but have had to take a step or two back and realize that there needs to be a more modified plan in place.
      It is difficult to find that happy place of a balanced dose of enough organization to keep things running smoothly, and also an equal dose of relaxed simplification that allows for the unexpected.
      This is what I am doing for now: my goal is to have a supper plan in place every morning--and it does not have to be anything fancy! I still like to experiment in the kitchen and make the effort to present my family with special treats that take that little bit of extra effort. BUT, instead feeling obligated to do that every day, I am aiming for a couple of "nicer" meals every week, and then on the other nights making simpler fare.
      I do have a rough meal plan in place for each week, and plan my shopping accordingly, but I don't assign a meal to any particular night. I just have the ingredients on hand to make the meals, then see how the week goes. If the morning goes well and the children are playing nicely, then on that day I might do some extra cooking and baking. I can get meat marinating, peel potatoes, make a batch of dough for rolls in the snippets of time over the course of the day. However, if it is a hectic, totally crazy day, then I have the flexibility to reach for something quicker.
       I have actually found that easy, economical things such as spaghetti or an occaisonal frozen pizza go over great with our family, and paired with vegetables on the side, are nutritious, well rounded meals. I have now given myself permission to take short cuts in the kitchen, to improvise and use convenience foods in my recipes...and yes, even to serve unexpected things such as pancakes or waffles for supper! (At first, my children thought it was a little funny, but they gobbled them right up, especially when topped with fresh berry sauce. :)) Who says those foods can only be served in the morning?!?
     Keeping things simple is good. There is no need to feel guilty about not cooking everything from scratch,...or even occaisonally eating out!
After all, the most important "ingredient" (even in waffles!), is love.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Strawberry-Blueberry Cream Trifle

Dessert tonight was simple, but oh-so-good! Chunks of cubed cake layered with real whipped cream, blueberries, and strawberries....yummy. :) Not only does it taste great, it makes an impressive presentation, too. The combination of berries made a beautiful shade of deep purple that really popped against the white of the cream. You could easily serve this as the finale to an elegant dinner!It would also be a fun alternative to a traditional birthday cake.
I am also a  firm believer in the fact that every day, even the seemingly ordinary days, are worthy to be celebrated. Every day is a special occaison, so I like to surprise my family with "fancy" treats for no particular reason other than that I love them! :)
This was the perfect thing on a cold January makes one think of summer! I assembled the layers in a large, glass bowl about two hours before serving.

Here is a picture of the finished result. (Well, the view of the top anyway!)
All you need to make this is:

1 9x9 inch (rectangular) cake, cut into medium-size cubes
4 cups sweetened whipped cream
3-4 cups berries (more or less as desired)
1/2 cup sugar

Mix the sugar and berries together and let this mixture sit for at least an hour, so that the berries can become juicy. Then, simply alternate layers of cake, whipped cream, and berries in a large bowl or trifle dish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to eat.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaching Responsibility, Part 1

One of the things that I want to work on in 2011 is teaching my older children more responsibility. They already have a few small chores they do, but I would like to expand upon that a bit and train them in a few new things now that they are older. As a mom, I naturally find myself trying to do everything. Often times, it is just easier in the short term to pick up after them rather than take time out to have them work along side of me. It takes extra time and patience to gently train and direct the children to do chores,
but in the long term, it will be worth it.  
It goes beyond having a tidy house,. I think it's important that children learn to take care of their property, to work together as a team with their family,to follow direction, and to have a helpful, cheerful spirit while doing so. I also want them to have a sense of pride in a job well done.The foundation for their future life as an adult is being built right now. It must begin early on. I cannot wait until they are teenagers and then wonder why their rooms are disasters and they do not know how to do simple household tasks.
I'm supposed to be raising children--not little piggies!
What better place to begin learning about responsibility than on the home front?
This does not mean that my children can never take toys out or make a mess in the course of learning, creating, and just being kids. My goal is not to have a spotless house that looks like a show room. I have three small little ones and it would be unrealistic to expect perfection (in fact, as I type this, I am surrounded by a Lincoln log village and a Hot Wheels parking lot! :) ), especially since we are homeschooling.
I don't think that means we have to live in a constant state of dirty chaos, though! No, every nook and cranny of my home is not necessarily organized the way I would like it. There are usually some crumbs under the table. I struggle to keep up with the laundry.
Yet, I do want our home to be comfortable, welcoming, reasonably clean.
A happy sanctuary to those I love.

Like with many things in life, it is all about balance and attitude.

I often forget just how capable my children are, how much they can actually do. They continually surprise me with something new that they learn how to do for themselves. The two older ones love tagging along with me as I go about the housework and they seem to derive a sense of satisfaction to be involved and feel like they are a big help to our whole family. Some of the best conversations I have had with the children have happened while we were working on something together.
They are at that young, impressionable age where work can actually be made fun!
Although the oldest two are only 3 and 5 years old, some of the many things that they can do are: dusting--an old, soft sock  worn over a little hand is a great way for them to help polish everything on their level...especially baseboards (they like to see who ends up with the dirtiest sock or dusting rag)! We got a small hand vaccum a few years ago that is light enough for them to handle and actually use. They like to vacuum under their beds and other places that are hard for me to get at with the regular sized vacuum. Setting the table, clearing the table after a meal, putting away silverware, and helping me cook and bake in the kitchen are other things that are a good way to include them. In the laundry room, sorting laundry is excellent practice for grouping colors and types of like items together...great way to capitalize on those teaching moments! Then there are the little daily things such as making beds and cleaning up toys when done playing with them. Even little Ethan is learning to put his blocks away in the bin before his afternoon nap.
It's so cute to see his older siblings encouraging and cheering him on.
So, even though my children do already know how to help around the house, I want to get a better organized system of chores in place, especially now that we are doing more structured homeschooling. I have come to the conclusion that we need more of a direct, visual course of action: chore charts.
 I want the children to get up every morning and know what their responsibilities are for the day. This will keep us on track with our daily routine much better. Of course, it won't be a set in stone schedule since life is full of the unexpected. The chore charts will serve as a guideline to our day but won't be overly rigid.

I am going to focus this week on working along side the children and introducing a few new things that they can try doing, then beginning the chore charts fresh on Monday morning. I will be writing a post with an update on how the new system is going in a week or so. I'm looking forward to seeing how this works for us!

In the meantime, I must go and wash the dishes --even though I don't feel like it! I would honestly much rather curl up with a book and some hot tea.
But, after all, responsiblity must first begin with the parent. :) Good night!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Now...and then

It is amazing to me just how fast the past few years have gone by, though it does not always seem that way.. At times, the days crawl by and it feels like nothing gets accomplished, nothing changes. But then clothes become outgrown, someone achieves a new milestone, it's time to buy the next level of curriculum...and it hits me: time is actually going by quickly. More quickly than I want to believe!  Because I am a stay-at-home mom, I am with my children the most, so I don't always notice how much they change and grow from one day to the next...until I stop and look at old pictures.
Here are my children now:
and here is a picture of them then--in spring of 2009:
When did they get so big? 

The past two days have been quite stressful. Nothing earth shattering happened, it has just been a challenge to keep the children occupied on these days where it is too cold to be outside much. Ethan is at an especially exhausting age (19 months) and is constantly getting into things. Then the other two are bouncing off the walls and wanting me to do activites with them When my husband has to work late, it makes for a long stretch of time where I am holding down the fort with three active,
mischievious, inquisitive, spirited,  little ones.
I guess the not so good days make the really great days stand out, right?!?

But, all I have to do is pull out pictures from the past to get grounded again. Leafing through the albums,  I realize anew that these phases are short and will be over in a flash. I wish I could stop time and at least make it pass a little slower.
I just need to take a deep breathe and try to find things to enjoy about certain challenging days...even as I go to roll up yet another pile of unwound toilet paper. :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Emma does love her sweets.....
 We made a big batch of these cookies yesterday. They are a long standing family favorite (I first made them when I was just 8 years old! ).The whole house smells wonderful as they bake, and they taste so yummy with a glass of milk.  I thought I would share the recipe in case someone has not yet tried them:

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned rolled or quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups butterscotch baking chips

Preheat oven to 375. Cream butter together with both sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Seperately mix the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt together. Add gradually to butter mixture, mixing well. Add oats and butterscotch chips next. Mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake about 8 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool slightly, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. About 4 dozen cookies. Hope that you love them as much as we do!  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year

At this time of year, the question seems to be on everybody's lips:
 "Did you make any resolutions for 2011?"

It makes me stop and seriously contemplate what I really want to focus on this year. Sure, it would be nice to get more organized. I would like to read more, to start writing my own book. Planting a huge vegetable garden would be a great thing to do. There are some home improvement projects that I would like to tackle. Maybe also increasing the level of my daily work out?

Those things look great on paper, and sound even better actually saying them in response to the resolution question. There is nothing wrong with having any or all of them as  goals for this year.

But, let's say that I didn't attain even one of them.

Life would still go on, with all the ups and downs, ebbs and flows. I would not be any less valuable as a person if I was not able to cross off every "to-do" item, if there were still things that I was not able to achieve and master by the year's end.
That is because personal worth is not determined by what you do, but rather by who you are inside and how you live your life. 
This train of thought made me think of my own children and my hopes for them. I could care less if they grow up to earn a master's degree, if they gain fame and fortune, if they have a prestigous place in society. Those things certainly will not make me love them more or think more highly of them. I care most about who my children are inside, more specifically the shape of their heart,what their values are, how they treat those around them, rather than how much higher learning they have or what their income level is. If they reach adult hood and are decent human beings, I will feel like I have done my job well as their mother. I want them to have a genuine appreciation for the gift of life and to live with integrity and a deep sense of thankfulness for all their blessings. I want them to put more importance on people rather than possesions or position.

Of course, I must first lead by example and demonstrate those principles through these formative years when they are young. In 2009 I watched my Dad fight cancer and eventually pass away when he was only 47 years old, and now this year I know of a 5 year old who is fighting that same battle. These are things you don't expect to happen, and when they do, it is a jolt back to the reality that life is is such a gift.  I don't want to waste time worrying about the future or be continually focused on what I need to accomplish next. I want to live in the present, this moment here and now.
 I never want to look back and regret that I myself took too many things for granted.
So, I ripped up my first list and made a second one which include things like: making sure that my children feel loved every day (and making sure they know that it is unconditional love!), working on having a thankful attitude,slowing down my pace a little so that I can treasure more of the simple joys of life, carving out more time for my husband and I, and not being afraid to say "no" when I need to.
I am looking forward to 2011, a fresh start on my way to living a life full of joy and gratitude.

This morning my son came down for breakfast, gave me an unprompted hug and said,
"I'm glad you're here today, Mom."
I am, too.

Image courtesty of