Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Bloopers

Things were going well enough until:

Oh yes, I did! And trust me, it's not that easy to do, either! I had 10 or so of these banners I was making. Obviously they weren't as easy to throw together as I had anticipated.

And then there was this:

What is it? Well, a perfectly set, Jell-O Salad.  Why would I consider this a "blooper"?
Well, Jell-O and I do not get along. (click the link to read more) I think this is the first Jell-O I have ever made that actually turned out. And, it was good! Trust me, I'd already started writing the blog post about the failed Jell-O attempt. That's how confident I was that it wouldn't turn out!  It's Jell-O, people! With stuff in it! These kinds of recipes never work out for me...and I mean Never. So, I'm sure it was a lucky fluke for me.
And, I have to admit that even though I was proud of myself...part of me was secretly disappointed because the epic failure was going to make such a great blog post!

Plus, now what am I supposed to do? Can I still call myself a Jell-O making failure?

Find the recipe here:

Oh, and P.S. I forgot to add..."I got the laryngitis"! What is it with me and being sick for the Holidays? This means we won't be sick for Christmas, though. Right? Right???

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

"Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise".
~George Herbert

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Candy Corn Cupcakes~Recipe Review

A couple of months ago, I saw a recipe for Candy Corn Twist Cupcakes in LHJ. I thought they looked pretty cool...but perhaps a little above my skill level!

Later, I was looking online for the recipe, and found these Candy Corn Cupcakes at Our Best Bites. On the same post, there is also a great video tutorial on frosting cupcakes! Bonus!!!

This was my first attempt at piping the frosting on, and I think they look fabulous! But we'll talk more about the frosting in a minute...

First, let's talk about the cake. I used the doctored up cake-mix recipe that is posted on the blog. I used vanilla instead of almond flavoring, because that was all I had.

I also couldn't find the right food coloring colors. Who knew every single store in UT County would be out of yellow and orange?  You'd think it was Halloween, or something! I ended up getting colors that were close...Buttercup Yellow and Copper. 

This is the batter after I have divided it and added the food coloring.  At this point I am getting a little worried. The batter is pretty thick. Mine actually was kind of a yucky, pasty consistency. And I had quite a bit more batter than the recipe said I would end up with...
And Buttercup Yellow and Copper turned out looking a lot like Fry Sauce and Mustard! I figured if the cupcakes didn't turn out as Candy Corns, maybe I could do some sort of Condiment Cupcake. :) I'm sure that would be a big hit!

Okay, so I have more batter than I was expecting, and it has an odd consistency and a slightly unappetizing color.  No matter, I just forged on ahead!  The next issue I ran in to was when I put the batter in the cupcake liners and then tapped (pounded?) the cupcake pan on the counter to spread the batter. The batter just sat there in a glob. I had to wet the tip of my finger and spread it out to the sides.  The good news is, they did bake up rather nicely. I easily got 24 cupcakes and still had enough batter to make maybe 3-4 more cupcakes. What I was short on, was patience, so the rest of the batter went down the sink. Next time, I think I'll use just a tiny bit more batter for each cupcake.

The cupcakes looked pretty~ and despite the coloring flaw, they did look like candy corns.  But I did not like the cake itself.  The cupcakes were very dry and lacked flavor. Pretty much like eating a dry sponge. Now, I will try this recipe again~ because it does get rave reviews.  I'm not sure what went wrong, so hopefully it was just a one time thing. 

But now...let's talk about the frosting, shall we? 
First, let's get the failure out of the way!
I used the Perfect Cupcake Frosting and Filling that was recommended in the recipe. I read through the recipe very carefully, and paid close attention to all the pictures. I also read the comments so I could get a good feel for the recipe, as I have never made a cooked frosting before. (But there are recipes similar to this one pretty much everywhere right now, so I wanted to give it a try).

One hint I read was to make sure you cook the frosting long enough.  Some people were having less than desirable results by not cooking the flour and milk to the proper stage/consistency.
I am happy to report I did not have this problem.

Just the opposite, in fact! I cooked mine a little too long. Just know that when the flour/milk mixture starts to thicken, it gets real thick, real fast! So I am including some helpful photos of what the frosting should NOT look like at this stage!  Consistency of mashed potatoes=bad.  Okay?  Okay.

See, I can't even get it to go through my mesh strainer! Fail!!! Dump it down the sink, run to the computer, look up Tasty Kitchen where you know you've seen a similar recipe...and attempt that one instead!
I used the "That's the Best Frosting I've Ever Had" recipe, which is similar to the first one, but without the whole pesky straining it through a strainer step.  I also read Ree's Tutorial; "That's Still the Best Frosting I've Ever Had"! Just to make sure I had all my bases covered.

A couple tips: Don't overcook (already covered that one!)
The recipe states that the sugar and butter should be beaten/whipped whatever until it is no longer grainy. Well...I beat mine for about 12 minutes and it still had a slightly grainy texture. But once I added the flour/milk mixture and beat it all together, it was just fine. Actually, more than fine...absolutely heavenly.
And then...there's the whole cooling the milk/flour. I used the cooling method from the first recipe, because it seemed easier. DO NOT put this in the fridge to cool!!! Because if you do, you will have a nice, thick skin that will form on the top...which you will notice at exactly the same time that you stir it up a bit. It will be all lumpy and yucky. Then you will want to cry a little, because you don't want to have to start over AGAIN!!!
Do cool it in the ice water in the sink.  (Don't worry, those pesky little lumps beat right out when I combined all the ingredients). Just remember...whip the heck out of it and all will be right with the world. This really is a fabulous frosting!  I like frosting, the rest of my family merely tolerate it. Can you believe no one ate any of the cupcakes?  They wouldn't even try the frosting!!! Don't worry, I'll keep making it~ they're bound to try it eventually! Meantime...all the more frosting for me!!!!

The Verdict:
Rainbow Method: Very easy to do, with a high "wow" factor. Win/Win!
Cake: Bleh. Dry and flavorless. I will try it again though.
Frosting: To. Die For! I might have licked the spoon, and the whisk...and the bowl.  Who am I kidding? I ate 2 spoonfuls of frosting when no one was looking!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Halloween, Part II...Finally

Let's get this wrapped up, shall we?

Friday night was "Party Central". Spencer went to a party at a friend's house. He was a punk rocker, complete with tattoo sleeves, piercings, and guy liner. And an angry face!

 Em and her friends had a party here at our house. They dressed up as "Peace", "Love", and "Happiness". They had fun making their costumes, and I thought it was a pretty creative idea.

Shane as a Dark Ninja.  A wet, Dark Ninja!  It was so rainy and cold, and he was not too thrilled with the idea of going out Trick-or-Treating.

Shane with the rest of the neighborhood boys. Aka, the "Boo Crew".

On Sunday, we had a family dinner and I made Mummy Meatloaf...this was kind of a pain in the butt to make! The meatloaf part was easy, but it took me much longer than I had anticipated to cover the face with noodles! The picture looks a lot better than it did in real life!

And Mashed Potato Ghosts...Let me just say, I love potatoes.  They are my ultimate comfort food! I have been wanting to try Pioneer Woman's Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes and decided this was the perfect time. I loved these potatoes! So yummy...I was hoping my family would gush over them too...but I guess no one else loves potatoes as much as I do! They said they were "good" and "fine", and "okay". I was hoping for more along the lines of "out of this world!" or "Please, never make any potatoes but these!" I guess I'll settle for "good".  I'm not too sure my family is very impressed with all my culinary experimenting.
 I just threw the potatoes in a disposable Wilton piping bag, snipped off the end and made round, ghostly mounds of potatoes. I piped them on a cookie sheet and then popped them in the oven for a few minutes to warm them up just before serving. Have I mentioned how yummy they were?  I've yet to meet a PW recipe that hasn't been super yummy! I wonder if her family thinks her cooking is "good"?  :)

And for dessert, there were these: Candy Corn Cupcakes.  These are my first attempt (well, at least for a very long time) at making and decorating cupcakes. So I am ecstatic that they turned out as nice as they did! They are gonna have their very own post! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Random Whining Ranting

It's been quite a week~ Oh boy! Has it been quite a week!!!

First. I hate the time change. Hate it.  Spring, Fall, doesn't matter...I hate it.  Really throws off my groove, or my chi, or whatever!  I hate it even more after living in Arizona for 4 years~ they have no such barbaric practices there.  It was lovely!!! Really, why must we do this???

In the last week...

My husband has switched jobs.
He is temporarily working from home.  He is on the computer. A lot. Get my drift???
He's much happier now, so that is a good thing! But he's gone a lot more right now (except for the whole at home/on my the computer thing).

Our ward was split. We are still teaching Primary~ yay!!! I've really been enjoying Primary. I team teach with Rick...even better!

Rick's younger sister and her son were in a terrible car accident. Thankfully, they are both okay.
He had minor injuries, but she got broken up pretty badly.  She'll be recovering for a while.  She's pretty darn lucky! (I know she's not feeling too lucky right now, her injuries are catastrophic, but could have been so much worse). She broke her pelvis/hip/sacrum area in several places. OUCH!!! The doctors are optimistic that she will make a full recovery~ it will just take time.

My Emily has had a rough few days. She had a trip to the ER for chest/arm pain. She's also seen a chiropractor, a massage therapist and our regular family doctor this week.  (The chest/arm pain has just gotten worse since Monday. Her heart is okay~ it looks like it is probably muscle related). She is just in a lot of pain right now, kind of inconclusive as to why.  Hopefully the current treatment will help everything settle down.  And unrelated to all that...She will be going for a follow up visit to her cardiologist on Monday. She has an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and low blood pressure. She's had this since she was 13~ but it has gotten worse. She had to wear a heart monitor for 2 weeks & we'll be doing the follow up for that. Hopefully with some treatment options to get her feeling better. (That's why she had to be evaluated in the ER earlier this week, just to rule out that her heart was not causing the pain).

My house is in utter chaos...I don't function well when my environment is out of control! :) 
Let me tell ya, I am beyond ornery and  I have been so stressed the past few days...I had a complete emotional breakdown because I had to buy a new cell phone!  I was crying about a cell phone, for Pete's Sake!!! It was just one more thing that I did not want to have to deal with, ya know??? I'm fine now. And I did get a new phone. :)

I still have a Halloween post or two to do. I realize that it's way past Halloween right now, but I'm finishing them up anyway! Hopefully this weekend some time.

And on a little more serious note: Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post about my sister-in-law, Amy.  I was trying to thank everyone "personally", but got a little waylaid with all the dramatics of the week.  So please know that I appreciate each of you for your kindness.

Next week is bound to be better, right?  Hey~ at least there's not another time change for another 6 months or so!  I should be fully recovered by then.

Right now I think I am going to go relax in a nice warm tub and then go to bed. 'Cause I think I need a time out.  I am a little irritable. (Might be a gross understatement). Oh...someone beat me to it. There goes all the hot water.... :)

Whining Over

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dear Amy

Gosh, I sure miss ya! Today is 4 months that you have been gone. Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday that you were here, and other times it seems like forever that you've been gone.

It's been more difficult than I thought it would be. Not that I thought it would be an easy-peasy walk in the park…I guess I just thought that I knew enough about death and loss and grief that I had this one under control…I. Was. Wrong.

Hope you know how much you are loved. And I hope you know how much your life has touched all of ours.

 You have had a huge impact on my kids. Curtis was very touched when you read "The Kissing Hand" to us and then shared your testimony and then, even though it took every bit of effort you had, you walked around the room and kissed each one of us on the palm of the hand. It helped strengthen his testimony and gave him the spiritual strength he needed to make changes in his life. Do you know he went through the Temple? Do you know he's married now, to a wonderful girl. I think you would like her.

Em is having a hard time. She misses you a lot. You were like a sister/mom to her. You've always encouraged her to be her best self, and to develop her talents. I know her life is better because of the relationship she had with you.

Spencer and Shane miss you too! You were always the fun, cool Aunt! You had them over for a few days during Spring Break~ just before we found out that you had cancer. You were pretty much on bed rest, but you had a houseful of kids anyway!

I remember Spring Break so well…you had been having that lower back pain for a while, and the day we dropped the boys off, I felt very strongly that I needed to pitch in and help you out, with meals, housework whatever. I just didn't know at the time what that really meant. You asked me if I thought you should go see a doctor. You had been being treated by a chiropractor~ but I agreed that maybe you should see what the doctor had to say, since you really weren't getting better. You got a diagnosis, some medication, and for a few days it seemed like you were on the mend…then things just got worse. Cancer. No known cure. Terminal. It was a rough couple of months~ but you met the challenge with dignity and grace. I'm proud of you~

I'm sorry that I got so sick. I was sick most of the time that you were, and I was unable to help out like I wanted to. I had to be happy with phone calls and texts, and the occasional visit once I started feeling a bit better and could find someone to drive me over to see you. One of my favorite visits was when you were in the hospital after you broke your hip. We didn't talk much~ but I sat by your bedside and held your hand. No words needed. Once I finally was better enough to spend some time with you~ it was evident that you were getting near the end of your journey here on earth. You lived just a few more days. We never got to have that chat that we wanted. I'm sorry Amy, that I let you down. I'm sorry I couldn't be there and be more help to you and your family. I'm sorry that I got sick, and I'm sorry that by the time I was getting better, you were fading away.

We got to talk a bit in those last few days~ moments when you were lucid, but they were few and far between.

I'm sorry I never got the letter written that I wanted to give you. I'm sorry that some of the things you wanted to do for the kids didn't get done. I know you were upset about that. I wish I could have helped more. And I'm sorry that the things we did talk about, I have been unable to follow through with. Though part of me realizes the things you asked of me are things I have no control over, another part of me feels like I'm letting you down again. And I am sorry. I wish I knew how to change things~

And I'm sorry I never got this letter written while you were still here. I doubt that you are reading my blog :) but I'm sure you still know the feelings of my heart. So I guess this letter is just cheap therapy!

We've been through a lot together…our family moving to Arizona~ remember how devastating that was for both of us? Last night I found the note you had written and given to me before we left. I cried when I read it~ but it was perfect timing to find it last night. It was in the box with the "Sisters by Heart" Willow Tree figurines that you gave me before I moved away. I loved them then and love them even more now.

Nathan's death (Amy's baby that died before he was born). We went to the Christmas Box Candle Light Vigil the following year, froze our butts off, but had a wonderful time together. Always wanted to go again~ but never did. But every year, on Nathan's birthday, I would call you, or send you a little something…We had a special bond that way.

Curtis' car accident. You and Gary were among the first at the hospital. You were there for him when we couldn't be. You guys paid for our family to fly from AZ to UT. And every year since his accident you have called me on his "anniversary date". You were one of the few that remembered and understood the significance of that day. I missed your call this year.

Taking care of Rick's grandma together. We had some fun times! Talking late in to the night…until Grandma would get mad and tell us to go to sleep! :) Looking at pictures, sitting out in the car in the driveway talking. Struggling to get Grandma up or down the wheelchair ramp at the doctor's office. (Glad she had a sense of humor and laughed right along with us). And occasionally sneaking away to grab some lunch. Cheese crisps at Mi Rancherito, or burgers and onion rings at Polar Queen...

And now this. Sometimes it feels like I don’t know what to do without you.

Amy, I don't have any sisters of my own, so even though we are sisters-in-law, you have been my sister and my friend. I know we didn't always get along~ I know I could irritate you & you could irritate me. We sometimes didn't see eye to eye about things, even had a time or two when we had a few "words". But despite all that, I've always loved you and appreciated the relationship we had. We've had some great times together over the years. Our families have always been close. I've had a great time the last couple of days reminiscing about some of the fun times we had…family trips to St. George to go to Tuacahn, picnics up the canyon (remember when Rick singed his eyebrows???), movies, barbecues, watching each other's kids. Remember when we all went to AZ together? Taylor was a baby and I was pregnant with Spencer. It was so stinking hot and we wondered how people could stand to live there…And then years later, where did Rick and I end up? Loved when you guys came down for Spring Break and stayed with us for a few days. We had a blast~ the kids loved our pool! Remember when you and Emily got lost and were half way to Tuscon before you called for help? And the summer after Curtis' accident, we met up in St. George for a family vacation for a few days. So many fun times with our families.

Once in a while it would be just you and Gary and Rick and I…going to concerts, spending the weekend in St. George, date nights. And sometimes just you and I… Emails, phone calls, texts, private jokes, sharing recipes, sharing ideas for church callings, and on and on and on.

Thanks for being part of my life. Thanks for loving me despite my flaws. Thanks for being my sister/friend. Thanks for allowing me to share in your life. I am so thankful that Rick and I had moved back to Utah before you got sick. I'm glad we were here, close by. Even though I didn't get to help as much as I wanted~ at least I did get to spend some time with you.

You will always be in my heart…and your kiss is always on the palm of my hand.
Miss you, love you!

My daughter Emily sang at Amy's funeral. Amy always encouraged Emily to share her singing talent~ so singing at the funeral was something Em really wanted to do. She did a great job and chose a beautiful song. The lyrics are below:

Every Breath
Jenny Phillips

His hands are
Catching your tears
And even without any words
He hears
you feel so far
But He's right where you are
And He knows

Every Breath
Every Pain
He knows your heart and
He knows your name
The giver of life
Light in your soul
Oh come home
Come rest
Let Him bless
Your every breath

Silence your voice and be still
And even without any words
You will feel
You think you're far
But He lives in your heart
and He knows

Every Breath
Every Pain
He knows your heart and
He knows your name
The giver of life
Light in your soul
Oh come home
Come rest
Let Him bless
Your every breath

There's nowhere you can go
That He hasn't been below

Every Breath
Every Pain
He knows your heart and
He knows your name
The giver of life
Light in your soul
Oh come home
Come rest
Let Him bless

Let Him bless
Your every breath

You can read more about Amy's story here:  Kisses For Amy

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Festivities, Part 1

Started out on Friday morning with the Annual Halloween Parade at the school. I love the Halloween Parade~ there are always some really clever costumes! I used to be clever with the costumes...now, not so much (read: store bought).

Shane was a Red Ninja.  The cute little girl in the Dorothy costume (picture below) is one of the girls in my Primary class at church.  It was fun to have all the kids that know me call out, "Hi Sister Jackson!"  Even kids that aren't in my class were saying hello.

(And I saw my celebrity crush again!  His kids go to the same school as Shane. How cool is that???)

 There were lots of parents in costume at the parade.  I didn't do my hair, and I stuck a hat on my head (like that's gonna help). So I guess my costume was frumpy housewife.  I was gonna post a picture...but I'm just not that brave!
After the parade, I rushed home to fix my hair so I could meet a friend for lunch.  We've been trying to get together for months...We had a great time. :)  We visited for 3 hours!!!  Could have gone much longer, but my kids were locked out of the house so I eventually had to go home.  Although Shane was resourceful and found a way to get in the house.  Little stinker!  He pulled the screen off a window, and slid the window open and crawled through.
 Hopefully we can get together more often...and next time I'll make sure the kids can get in the house!

In the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, I drove down to meet up with these wonderful friends for our
Second Annual Halloween Breakfast Meet & Eat! 
This year, we all wore our Pajamas, and promised to come looking like we had just staggered out of bed. Uh...some of us look much better first thing in the morning than others!

 Unbeknownst to us, we had picked a male dominated restaurant. 
Felt like we had invaded a "Gentlemen Only Club"
(by Gentlemen I mean truck drivers, construction workers, hunters and farmers, not that they aren't gentlemen, I just don't want you to have the vision of us surrounded by men sitting around in lounging jackets and smoking pipes! There was a lot of plaid flannel, maybe a rifle and a pitchfork or two.)
Oh well, we had fun anyway!
Emma & Darla

Lynette, Connie and a Pink Marshmallow Peep (me).
Make sure you read Connie's funny, witty write up: Invasion.
I think she already has her eye on a spot for next year!