July 30th, 2013

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

 

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My sister Mary had a really big July.  It’s not often that someone has her first baby and turns 40 within one week’s time.  Luckily the delivery went really well and my sister had a beautiful, big, pink-cheeked, dark-haired baby boy named Nathan.  He beat that other baby born this July by an ounce, weighing in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 20 inches long.  The whole family, Mary, her husband Austin, Nathan, and their dog Kayma, are settling in at home, working on a routine, and hoping for some sleep here and there.

My son Will with Nathan

My son Will with Nathan

My daughter Kate with Nathan

My daughter Kate with Nathan

I was in charge of making dinner and a cake for Mary on her birthday, and I knew the answer even before I asked her what kind of cake she wanted.  I had made her a red velvet cake back in June for her baby shower, and she told me she had daydreamed about that cake ever since!

I use a recipe from my favorite baking blog, Brown Eyed Baker, that is truly divine – moist and delicious.  In fact Mary says it’s the best cake she has ever had.  Wow!  So here is the recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Ingredients for the cake:

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups + 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces ( 1 block) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • about 8 cups (1 bag) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.

*Tip – use Crisco, not butter, to grease the pans.  Butter has a high water content and as it melts it can make your cakes soggy.*

2.  Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy on medium-high speed, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs.  Turn the mixer to high and mix until well blended.  Don’t forget to stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed!

3.  In another bowl, stir together the red food coloring, cocoa powder and vanilla extract until it forms a paste.  Add the paste to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix on medium speed to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

*Tip – if you have gel food coloring instead of liquid, combine the gel coloring with warm water.  Use about 2 tablespoons gel coloring with 4 tablespoons water to make the 6 tablespoons total.*

4.  Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add half of the buttermilk, then half of the flour.  Mix until combined well then stop and scrape the sides of the bowl.  Turn the mixer back on low, add the other half of buttermilk, then the other half of the flour and again stop and scrape the bowl.  Turn the mixer to high and mix until the batter is smooth.

5.  Turn the mixer back down to low and add the salt, baking soda, and vinegar.  Crank the mixer back up to high and mix until everything is well incorporated and the batter is nice and smooth.

The finished batter

The finished batter

6.  Pour half the batter into each of the prepared cake pans.  Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

7.  Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before turning the cakes out onto cooling racks.  Make sure the cake is completely cooled before frosting or your icing will slide off!

*Tip – As you remove ingredients from your refrigerator, don’t drop the butter dish onto your foot.  It will hurt.  Possibly for days.*

8.  Frosting:  In your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese until it’s smooth, about 5 minutes on high.  Turn the mixer to low (or you’ll end up with powdered sugar all over your kitchen).  Slowly, add the powdered sugar in small increments, mixing between each addition, until all the sugar is incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract.  Beat the icing on medium high for a couple of minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

*Note – This icing is not as stiff as traditional buttercream.  It’s best to keep the decorating simple.*

When icing the cake, pile a generous amount of icing on top and then smooth the top and push the excess icing down onto the sides.  Then, adding more icing as needed, coat the sides of the cake.  This will help prevent getting crumbs in the icing.

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You can also spread a thin layer of icing all over the cake, not worrying about crumbs, then go back over the cake with a second thicker layer.  The first “crumb coat” layer will lock in the crumbs so your second layer will be crumb free.

Thanks for reading!

Amy

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July 22nd, 2013

The 200 ton locomotive, or living with a teenager

My mom often uses the phrase “the 800 pound gorilla” to refer to someone who is uncontrollable or unstoppable, and at first that phrase seemed to describe living with a teenager to a tee.  But the more I think about it, the more another metaphor comes to mind.

Picture this… the teenager is texting so fast his fingers are blurred.  He comes running down the stairs, without looking up from his phone, and as he’s heading towards the door he calls out “I’m going over to **insert friend’s name here** house, is that ok?  And before I can answer he’s gone.

I’ve just been run over by the 200 ton locomotive.  Somewhere around 13 or 14 years old, the teenager stopped making plans through me and started making plans without ever consulting me.  And employing a popular teenager trick, not giving the adult 2 seconds think and form a coherent sentence before disappearing.  POOF!  That way he won’t hear “no”.  Clever, huh?

I’ve become the chauffeur or the ATM, but parent has moved quite far down the list.  But here’s where it gets interesting – the teenager is my step-son.  As any step parent knows, a step relationship is a delicate, intricate dance performed while teetering on a tight rope, and I don’t have the safety net of being the birth parent below to catch me if I fall.  I need to be a disciplinarian, have enough common sense for both of us, watch out for his safety and well-being, and support his feelings and needs.  What he wants from me is a ride and $10 (and sometimes advice about girls).

I realize I have a long road ahead of me.  Our oldest is 14, and our 2 girls are right behind him.  Oh well, you know what the say “Teenagers – you can’t live with them, you can’t cryogenically freeze them until they’re 25″.

Amy

July 17th, 2013

Meet the family

I’m creating this blog to talk about my life with a large, blended family so it’s only fitting to tell you our story and to introduce you to the brood.  It all started back in 2007.  At the same time my first marriage was ending, I found out a friend of mine from church was going through the same thing.  We started talking a lot about what we were going through and all the hurt feelings that came with our situation.  We talked about what our future might look like without our spouses.  As friends, we took the kids to fun places like the Fort Worth Zoo trying to distract them from all the turmoil.

Our very first picture together, way before Mike and I started dated, at the Fort Worth Zoo

Our very first picture together, way before Mike and I started dating, at the Fort Worth Zoo

They all knew each other from Sunday School so they enjoyed being together.  Eventually, over the months while all the paperwork to dissolve our marriages was completed and our spirits were starting to heel, we gradually stopped talking about the “others” so much and started to really connect with each other.  By March of 2008 we were engaged and in May of 2009 we bought a house together.  After a loooonnnngggg engagement we finally tied the knot on October 16, 2010.

Mike and I with the kids at our wedding, October 2010

Mike and I with the kids at our wedding, October 2010

Here we are, right after the ceremony at the end of the isle.  From left to right, the kids are Kate, Evan, Anna, Austin and Will.  They served as our bridesmaids and groomsmen – the only people to stand with us.  It wasn’t just mine and Mike’s wedding, it was my family and his family coming together to form a new family.  We had a beautiful ceremony and reception at the Lone Oak Ranch and Retreat.

Lone Oak Ranch and Retreat

Lone Oak Ranch and Retreat

It was absolutely the most perfect day for an outdoor wedding and a glorious start to our new lives together.

That was almost three years ago and because we keep feeding the kids, they keep getting bigger.  Here they are today.

Austin on his church youth retreat

Austin on his church youth retreat, age 13

Kate, the day she was confirmed at church

Kate, the day she was confirmed at church, age 12

Anna at her dance recital

Anna at her dance recital, age 10

Will at a Marlins baseball game

Will at a Marlins baseball game, age 9

Evan at the Texas Ranger game on his birthday

Evan at the Texas Ranger game on his 8th birthday

And… that’s us!

 

 

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July 12th, 2013

My Beauty Brands shopping spree

 

Today's purchases

Today’s purchases

It’s July and that means that Beauty Brands is having their annual liter sale on shampoo and conditioners.  I went in with the intention only of restocking my hair care products, but as usual, I came out with more.

First, the shampoo and conditioner.  I have been using Redken All Soft for dry/brittle hair.  I don’t really have dry hair but I find most shampoos for oily hair are way too harsh so I stay away.  I do, however, tend to get a straw-like texture to my hair which is why I tried the All Soft.  I really like the All Soft shampoo and conditioner – it lathers nicely, cleans without being too harsh or drying, and detangles well.  To me, my hair feels softer and doesnt need as much product.  Unfortunately, Beauty Brands didn’t have the liter size of the conditioner so I was forced to find an alternative.  I settled on the Redken Smooth Lock Thermal Care for dry/unruly hair.

Redken Smooth Lock Shampoo and Conditioner

Redken Smooth Lock Shampoo and Conditioner

I consider my hair to be unruly in that it never seems to do what I want it to do, so we’ll see if this helps me out.  I’ll keep you posted and let you know my thoughts on Smooth Lock.

At the sale price of $12.99 per bottle (plus the 10% off coupon I had) it’s quite a bargain, especially considering I had paid $14.98 for the 10.1 fl oz container of All Soft.

Second, I replenished my Philosophy skin care products.  I love the Purity facial cleanser!  I have very sensitive skin so I was so happy to find this cleanser – it’s creamy, gentle and it smells so good.  Plus it doesn’t leave my face feeling too dry or tight and I’ve never had any issues with redness or blotchiness like I have with other cleansers.

I paid $22 for an 8 fl oz bottle but there are multiple sizes which range from $10 to $50.

Philosophy products

Philosophy products

As I mentioned I have very sensitive skin and I’ve always struggled with oily spots, uneven skin tone, breakouts, and reactions to topical products.  The Microdelivery Purifying Peel has quickly become my best friend!  I highly recommend this exfoliator.  It uses natural enzymes to exfoliate your skin instead of little beads that physically scrub your skin like some other products.  It stings a little while it’s on my face but that stops completely when I rinse it off.  I have steadily increased my usage to about every 2 to 3 days, and I have seen real improvement in my skin – fewer breakouts and a more even skin tone.

At $42 for a 3 oz bottle, it is definitely a splurge, but I have not found anything that has made this much of impact on the appearance of my skin.

My third purchase was a new color of one of my favorite lip sticks – Too Faced La Creme Color Drenched Lip Cream.

Too Faced La Creme Color Drenched Lip Cream in Razzle Dazzle Rose

Too Faced La Creme Color Drenched Lip Cream in Razzle Dazzle Rose

The name says it all – it is so creamy, feels great on my lips and the color saturation is great too.  It looks pretty with a little gloss on top or all by its self.

The lip cream will run you $21.

Lastly (literally, I was standing at the counter when I saw this) I couldn’t resist yet another bottle of nail polish.  I picked the OPI Nail Lacquer called Minnie Style.

OPI Nail Lacquer in Minnie Style

OPI Nail Lacquer in Minnie Style

It is part of the collection called “Couture de Minnie” which also includes 4 other super cute colors in the red and pink family, including one liquid sand polish.  I am a sucker for pinks and sparkles so this was a no-brainer for me.

This nail polish was $9.

So that’s it!  I hope you’ll try some of the products I’ve really come to love.

Amy

July 10th, 2013

Sharing my kids

Wow.  My very first blog post.  Ever.  Even though I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, now that I’m sitting here writing this my mind is a little blank.  Not that that is a new phenomenon for me, but it”s making me wish I had written down some of those great ideas I had in my head at 2:00 in the morning.

Instead, I think I’ll talk a little about what is going on right now in my life.  We are in the middle of the craziest summer we’ve ever had as a family.  One daughter in summer school all of June, one son on mission trip with our church, kids going with their other parents, summer band starting for our new high schooler on August 1st.  Bye bye summer.  So right now, my two kids are with their dad in Oklahoma.  I don’t think people that have never been divorced can understand how hard it is to share your kids.  They have an entire life of which I have no part.  Of course I miss them like crazy, but it’s more than that.  It’s losing control.  It’s insane logistics.  It’s the physical and emotional distance.

I can’t be the only mother who feels this way.  Right?

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