Need more chocolate

This past weekend, we went to a party celebrating my brother’s graduation from highschool.  I made cupcakes!

These are my FAVORITE cupcakes and, after a verbiose story from me, they can be your favorite, too.

Last year, for Ella’s 3rd birthday, we threw a carnival-themed party.  Ryan made a Spongebob cut out from plywood.  He cut out the teeth and placed golf tees to hold up ping-pong balls.  These were for target practice.  He helped me make a plywood Cookie Monster with a mouth cutout, and I sewed cookie bean bags to toss in.  We also had a small swimming pool with felt sea creatures and washers with magnetic fishing poles.  We made kits of PVC pipes and fittings so each kid could make marshmallow shooters.  There was a station with bubble solution and pipe cleaners so kids could make their own bubble wands.  You get the point.  They were all unmanned stations, making the parents escort the kids through the different play areas, with bins full of novelty toys.  So as the kids would play, the parents could award the kids with little toys for their goodie bags.

For dessert, I wanted to have a variety of things to satisfy every sweet tooth.  I did a fruit salad, a white cake with fresh strawberry frosting, and a chocolate therapy cake. Everything looked and tasted delicious.  But… It was a VERY hot and humid day.  Both the white cake and chocolate cake MELTED.  Cakes don’t melt, you say.  The frosting liquified and the layers of cake slid off each other.  Also, when someone would cut a slice of either cake, it was lava flow of sweets oozing down from all directions.  It was the saddest display of birthday cakes ever.

I got such rave reviews from both cakes.  I only wished that I could make them more appealing.  I did some research, the frosting needed more confectioners’ sugar to keep it’s stiffness in high humidity.  Ok, so that solved the melting issue, but there was still the problem with cutting.  Well, if they didn’t have to cut into it, that wouldn’t be a problem.  Duh!  Cupcakes!

I experimented with the chocolate cake.  Ok, so one recipe makes a 3-layer, 9-inch cake.  That should be about 2 dozen cupcakes, maybe?  Oh-em-geezy, I ended up making 5 dozen cupcakes with that recipe!  I wasn’t about to make that much frosting, so I cut that recipe in half.  Good thing too, it took twice as much confectioners’ sugar for it to maintain it’s structure in the Hawaii humidity.  I ended up piping it on top of each cupcake and decorating it with half a cookie.  I’ve made this recipe as cupcakes 3 times.  After the second time, Ryan said maybe I should ask for his permission if I’m going to bake again.  Not only does it make way too many to consume (rather, that you should consume), but it takes a lot of time to prep, bake, and frost.  So really, a large party is my only excuse to make this recipe.

So, there you have it.  The most delicious chocolate cupcakes!  As I mentioned, beware, it makes a lot.

Recipe — make the cake recipe, fill cupcake liners about half full.  Cut frosting recipe in half, add more confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency.

Subscribe to this idea

This year for Ryan’s birthday, I wanted to get him a subscription box.  If you’re not familiar with the concept, basically you pay a fee for a subscription, similar to a magazine and at predetermined times, you receive a box full of goodies.  Once, for Valentines’ Day, Ryan gifted me a year-subscription for Birch Box.  It was like 13 months (buy 12+1 bonus) of little gifts!  Each box was filled with new/sample beauty finds and other treats.  I honestly didn’t use much of the stuff, but you know how consumerism works.

Anyway, since then, there have been several similar companies that have popped up and each one catering to a unique audience.  Ryan has expressed interest in Bespoke Post.  In my opinion, it’s a box curated for luxury living.  Yes, I know he has aspirations to become wealthy and own a smoking chair in a library, taking annual holiday at our summer loft.  But I’ve been eyeing the boxes, and none of them really fit him.  Sure it’d be cool to have a salt block for grilling, a mini cask for aging whiskey, or a kit for detailing your car — wait a minute.  This box isn’t for me.  I definitely needed to find something else.  After all, what kind of wife and best friend would I be if I get him what he wanted?  (Inferring, that instead I get him what he doesn’t know he wanted. Duh.)

I’ve researched other subscription boxes, looked at reviews of what’s inside, did comparisons of value, and I was deciding between Fancy Box, Nerd Block, and Loot Crate.

  • Fancy Box is for those closet celeb-wannabes.  It’s like having the latest in what’s trendy, some of the subscription boxes are even curated by famous people.  The problem I had with this was the lack of usability.  People that received the box raved about how the monetary value of their boxes were 3-4 times what they paid.  But really, how often would he use an aqua speaker?  A pair of gold-rimmed sunglasses?  I could walk in to Nordstrom and pick an assortment of grab gifts from the tables on a triple point day.  Same thing.
  • Nerd Block is a subscription box full of everything nerdy.  Pop! figurines, mini puzzle games, awesome t-shirts.  That was something I could get behind.  A box of random, but really cool stuff.  We spent an afternoon shopping around for a curio to display some of his cool toys and collectibles.  Unfortunately, we don’t have an IKEA and we aren’t able to fashion a wall like Adam Savage, so for now, a shelf we bought a few years ago from Target will have to suffice.  Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, right…
  • Loot Crate is similar to the previous, but THEME-based.  OMfG.NfW.  Previous boxes showed Transformers!  And references to Back To The Future!  Adventure Time!  One lucky subscriber can win a MEGA box with gaming consoles or other really friggen’ fantastic stuff?  Ok, so we’re not lucky people and you can cross that last one off the list of pros, but I was sold.  Although he’ll deny it, Ryan is a little kid in a candy shop when it comes to this kind of stuff.

Ok, so it’s set.  He’s getting a gift that will keep giving, for the next 6-months anyway.  Happy Birthday, Ryan!

P.S.  I set the size for Mens’ XL.  I read that some of the boxes contain shirts and you will want to order a size up since they are smaller and tend to shrink quite a bit.

 

Give and then give some more

I have this nasty habit of making piles.  If you couldn’t tell by my post on unfinished projects, things get piled up and forgotten.  Most notably, there is a large pile at the top of the stairs.  It consists of a large box (i don’t know, maybe 3.5 feet by 2 feet by 2.5 feet?) filled with another box, topped with a box filled with several (a few dozen) folded boxes.  It’s a mountain of cardboard.  Adjacent to this, there is a broken suitcase, broken drying rack, a couple boxes of and a laundry hamper full of outgrown clothes, and bags of unwanted toys, etc.  You get the point, lots of things for discard and donation.

I’ve been meaning to sort it all.  Take things to the dump (along with the huge screen tv that broke and now we’re without one in the living room — which hasn’t been too terrible), organize things for donation, and generally clear up the space to declutter our house.  Like all things in life, it’s so easy to put it off than to get the motivation to start.

I got an email reminder the other day, “Big Brothers Big Sisters will be in your area!”  Honestly, there is always someone picking up donations in the area.  Between them, UCP, Kidney people, random strangers, I’m pretty sure if I just leave something outside, it’ll get picked up (We’ve had people wander into our garage and steal shoes. TWICE. We even caught them on camera once.  Weirdos, it was a group of 4? boys stealing womens footwear.).  So after seeing the email, I went ahead and scheduled a pickup for Wednesday morning.

I was hoping this would be the fire under my seat that would motivate me into cleaning that area up — or at least sort between what needs to be donated and what needs to be dumped.  I printed up a list of acceptable donations to get me started.

That’s about as much progress as I had done for the first 2 days.  Finally, after realizing I probably wouldn’t have the time to focus, I pushed myself to just do it.  I cleaned the toys out of the middle of the living room (I think this is why I have no motivation, there are so many steps to do before actually doing anything, I’m tired before I even start), then spread out the piles.  I went through all the clothes, sorting it by size and type, emptying pockets and neatly packing them away.

Ella was amazed at how big daddy’s clothes was.  I was amazed too, not by the size, but by the quantity!  In the end, he had 2 boxes of pants and 1 box of shirts.  I would say maybe over 20 pairs of jeans and khakis, and the same or more of button down shirts and dri-fit polo shirts.  These were all clothes that we pulled out of his closet from when he went down from a size 38 to a 34 and from XL to L.  Just the one size was very significant.  We’re very proud of him.

I went through my clothes, packed up all the maternity clothes, pulled out old handbags that I don’t plan on using ever again, organized the girl clothes, and all the toys that we planned to give away.  In the end, there were 6 boxes and 3 bags.  I’m sure if I make a pass through all the rooms, I can round up some more, but after telling my in-laws about the donation pick-up, they too wanted to give.  I only requested a medium pickup, so I have to limit myself to what I accomplished in one day.

I’m sure as the kids get bigger, they’ll outgrow a lot more toys and clothes.  I would appreciate any ideas on how to set these items aside for donation without having “piles” accumulate in the house!

Hair update: 10-14 days

At the time this picture was taken, it was 10 days since I shampoo’d.
At this point, my itching is gone, my scalp doesn’t feel oily, and my hair is naturally straighter and I don’t have to spend 15 minutes with a flat iron getting all the weird flips and kinks out!

Also, at this time, Ryan said my hair doesn’t smell clean.  I mean really, just because it doesn’t smell like soap doesn’t mean it’s not clean.  Alternatively, just because it smells “clean”, doesn’t mean that it is (clean).  So I cave, we go to Whole Paycheck and I pick up a bottle of Aubrey’s natural shampoo.

Ugh!  After one wash, my hair felt dry and stripped.  By the next morning, my scalp was itchy and flakey again.  Needless to say, my hair was unmanageable and that day was a pony tail day.  I decided maybe I should go back to water rinsing, but we ended up going to a party the next day where there was a pig cooking on an open fire.  My hair, clothes, and everything I had with me is saturated with an ash-scent.  So another round of shampoo.  Again, my hair felt dry (almost crunchy!) and I could not stop itching.

Don’t mind the photo, I’m very unhappy with the current state of my hair.


I’m so bummed.  My hair looked and felt great, and with just a couple of shampoo washes it has gone monster freak show.  Hopefully, in the next few days of non-poo I can get back to pretty hair.

This is how you Spanish roll

To the left, to the left. To the front, to the front. Now sprinkle, baby, sprinkle. Sprinkle, baby, sprinkle.
 
 The latest dance moves? Nah! It’s just my technique for making Spanish rolls!
 
 These contain milk, eggs, and butter, so definitely not survivalist bread. But let me tell you, I could survive off this bread! I think I’ve expressed how much I love bread, but now it’s baked with butter and sugar rolled up in it and sprinkled all over? Yum. I ate two. I had to make sure it tasted good, then I had to taste if it still tasted good when it was cold. (It did!)
 
 I have to disclose, however, I didn’t exactly follow the instructions. I was supposed to turn the dough out onto the countertop and knead it. I did that for all of, maybe ten minutes. I was putting all my weight into it, perspiring from the higher humidity, and I just didn’t feel like doing it. My stand mixer came in and saved the day. In the same amount of time it took me to decide to use it, it got the job done.
 
 Also, after the bread hook did it’s magic, rather than letting it rise for 3 hours (who has the time?!), I covered the bowl with plastic wrap, placed it in middle rack of the oven. Boiled a quart of water and poured it in a pan that I then placed on the bottom rack, then shut the door. In about an hour, the dough was pretty much doubled in size.
 
 So really, my deviations were only time-saving tricks. I’ll probably make these again, but with more butter and sugar, and maybe a brush of butter over the top, too. My favorite bakery Spanish roll is saturated in butter and gritty with excess sugar. Of course you’re willing to eat it, but making it that way is met with so much hesitation. Oh well, here are some shots from tonight’s adventure!;
 
 Before baking:

 After baking:

 Eh! No make fun of how it looks. I have a hard time securing the flap, so when it bakes it puffs out and rises more. It makes it look less roll-like and probably contributes to its drier consistency, but they are still very delicious and addicting.

Bread and butter

I love me some fresh bread!
 
 I may be a terrible asian and resident of Hawaii for saying that. Most people leave the ‘aina (land) and come home craving rice. Don’t get me wrong, rice is yummy when it’s sticky and paired with something salty like spam, crispy bacon, chicken long rice, or chili. But when I spend any amount of time a away from Hawaii, when I come home, I don’t care.
 What I do like is BREAD! And pasta, too. But I could easily walk into an Italian restaurant, eat all the bread, and have no room for the main course. I also prefer little sauce on my pizzas, pan crust being my ultimate fave!
 
 Ryan was saying bread is a good starch option if we ever need to survive without electricity. We’ve been doing practice runs to find a recipe we like, because you wouldn’t want to wait until a hurricane to make rocks!
 
 Ryan’s first attempt was in a Dutch oven. It smelled great and was really …rustic. It was really dense and the crust was tough to bite and chew.
 
 Next, I tried making a loaf of French bread. It looked sort of like it was supposed to, but again, it was more dense than I expected and the crust still on the thicker side. Flavor-wise, I also think it should be a little sweeter and less yeasty. Although, you will hardly notice if you spread on a large pat of softened butter!
 

 I guess we need to keep doing these test runs! Good thing I love bread!

Oh shirr…..

Did you know, my living room is a great location for spotting UFOs? I would post a picture to prove it, but I may get in trouble and risk having my blog shut down.

Of course, UFOs being Un-Finished Objects and the mess that is the living room is quite embarrassing, and doesn’t need to be forever emblazoned on the Internet. Ryan gets on my case about having so much craft stuff all over the place, and I agree. But if I clean, then the UFOs will forever hover. My goal over the next month (coinciding with not washing my hair-HAHA) is to finish projects and put away my crafting supplies.

First up? That damn dress! A year ago (7/13/2013), I got caught up in the April Rhodes’ The Date Night dress hype. I thought it was fab and all the bloggers that had an opportunity to make it swooned over the fit and ease of assembly. It got me excited. Like leave work, go shopping for fabric, and start sewing excited (I didn’t).

Tangent: One time, I made a navy blue knit dress. It was from a tutorial, so I was drafting my own pattern. The knit was transparent, so I figured why not just double it up? It added so much bulk, I wore it once. Another time, I made matching tops for myself and Ella. The arm cuffs were too tight, so we only got one use out of those as well. It seems I can sew better for kids, as I’ve made many dresses, pants, and costumes, but when it came to sewing for adults, I’m only successful at hospital gowns. Eek! That’s depressing.

Back to my story, I’m excited about making this dress. One problem: I live in Hawaii. The only places to buy fabric are over-priced, touristy, or do not carry the right type. Oh, and good luck finding any new collections that you see pop up in mainland fabric shops. For instance, there is a store on Oahu that happens to sell voile, for nearly twice the price as the mainland, but had only two “new” prints. Even then, they were from a collection a year before that was no longer in print. Frustrating! Ordering online is the way to go, except it takes a few days, shipping to Hawaii is costly, and you don’t get to see/feel the product until it gets here. Needless to say, I was less excited at this point.

Before I realize, it was November. I was periodically checking fabric sites for something that caught my eye, slowly losing hope that I’d ever make the dress. Then…SALE! I love that word. It’s a curse word, I’m sure. Husbands universally cringe when it’s used in conjunction with craft supplies. Three yards of a pretty voile on its way!

Slowly, it started looking like a dress. For a long time it didn’t have sleeves, then it was even longer before there was a finished neckline. It wasn’t until maybe April(?), when I finally finished the hem on the sleeves and bottom, after finding a hem template. It worked great for the most part, but the laser toner didn’t like the heat from my iron and rubbed off from the paper onto the fabric. Ugh!! Luckily, my mother-in-law had a metal one I could borrow.

At last! I was done! But there was yet another problem. It looked like a hospital gown — face palm. The print that I chose, though pretty, and worked well in other dress designs, in this arrangement was just unflattering hospital garb.

I tried to dress it up with different belts, but nothing would remedy. My dress form wore it for months with a wide belt that was so two years ago. Then it struck me, if nothing quite matched it, why not shirr it?

I was nervous. I had never shirred before and my sewing machine can be wonky. The last thing I needed was to have my $30 + labor gobbled up in the feed dogs. I wound the elastic thread on a bobbin, practiced on a scrap, then just went for it.

It’s still quite sterile in appearance, but paired with a neutral cardigan, it works for me. Ryan says it must be the sleeves.

I even wore it to work …gasp! Funny that I was worried about busting a seam or any other wardrobe malfunction, when in reality, it is probably better constructed than most of the store-bought stuff in my closet. It has French seams, a reinforced pleat, and properly tied off threads!

Well, that’s one UFO crossed off the list. (Hands on hips, head turn) “I got this!”

*Have you seen ABC Family’s Young and Hungry? It annoys Ryan; totally my kind of show.