Friday, October 27, 2017

Minecraft Cake

We decided to brave the world of making our own birthday cake for Tyler's birthday party because we are gluttons for punishment. It truly became one of those "let's make the cake, they said. how hard can bit be, they said..." 

In the end, the birthday boy was thrilled... and it wasn't a Pinterest Fail of epic proportions. 

We started off researching what we needed to make and collecting supplies. We made a 4 layer cake that started with a 12x12x2 inch cake pan... in reality, we cut about 2 inches off of it so it was 10 inches on each side and 8 inches high when it was all said and done.

To make cakes of this size, each layer required a double batch of cake... so for ours, each layer represents 2 cake mixes. We chose to do 2 layers of white and 2 layers of chocolate cake. 

We started making our cake on the Tuesday before the party (Saturday) -- on that day we only made the cakes. We let the cakes rest the night in our cube-shaped cooler that John layered delicately with cooling racks and cake pans.

On Wednesday, we made our butter-cream icing and built the main structure of the cake. We used the Wilton recipe made with shorting (we did the variation for stiff white butter-cream) because we wanted to make sure that the structure of the cake wouldn't be susceptible to falling over if it got to be room temperature while sitting at the party. It took about 3 double batches of icing to cover the entire cake. I used a pastry bag and a cake frosting tip to make this easier on myself. We also chose to dye the frosting brown so that you wouldn't see white if there were any gaps in our fondant pixels. From here, the cake was placed in our outside refrigerator.

On Thursday, we dyed all of our fondants - we ended up with 3 shades, 3 shades of brown, and gray. To cover this entire cake, we used one 5 pound box of Wilton White Decorator Preferred Fondant. John made a template (yes, we would share if asked) in Excel that told us the total number of squares we would need and then we were able to break it down by how many of each shade we would need.

On Friday, we cut out a billion and one fondant pixels. We used a cookie cutter of sorts that allowed us to cut nine 1 inch squares of fondant each time you cut. We had to use some powdered sugar in place of flour while rolling out our pixels. We placed them on sheet trays and then into the fridge for the night. We were a bit worried about the fondant falling off the cake before the party - so we opted to put them on the cake that morning. By the end of the night Friday:

  1. We printed our templates and put them on our cookie sheets 
  2. We put a layer of wax paper on top (starting with the top layer of the cake)
  3. We filled in our pixels and made sure to stick the fondant squares together - start with the top of the cake as that is the last layer you adhere to the cake
  4. Repeat with a template for the sides and wax paper
  5. As each layer was finished we took the wax paper and layered them all on to one cookie sheet
  6. We let the 5 walls chill overnight in our refrigerator

Saturday morning (at like 10:30 -- the party was at 12), we did the final adhering to the sides of the cake. We put our layers of pixels (one side at a time) on the back of a cookie sheet. We gently brushed it with water, and positioned them onto the cake - then we took a fondant smoother to press the sides into the butter-cream on the cake. When you adhere the top, you don't need to brush it with water - and we used an extra cake board so that we could just flip it over onto the top of the cake.

It didn't end up perfectly, but for our very first attempt at cake decorating -- it went pretty well!

Tyler's Aunt, Susan, made the Creeper, Steve, and pig for the top of the cake... he was thrilled with how it turned out. 

If you decide to make one of these on your own, please let us know and we'd be happy to pay our lessons learned forward and help you as much as we can! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Power Sheets 2018!

2018 PowerSheets Collection
I've always loved planners, y'all. It's a sickness really because I love them so much -- and the process of setting them up and adding things like birthdays just turns me into a special kind of nerd.

Last fall, I was going through a transition of sorts in my life, and I stumbled upon Lara Casey's page on Facebook - she was doing a really vulnerable post about having to start over on her book - which became Cultivate. It is an amazing book about living life intentionally, and I believe everyone should read it... but that's not why I am sharing today.

Lara also created an amazing product called Powersheets, which is an intentional goal setting planner - which walks you through the process of setting goals and then tending to them each month. She has a whole section that is about 60 pages of what we call Prep Work. You fill that out during December - I did it the week between Christmas and New Years last year. For each goal you set, you will create an action plan... which I LOVE!

Then each month you have a small couple of pages to fill out about what you got done the previous month and your goals for the next month. You keep this page open, or you can tear it out of the book (it's perforated to make this easy on you) to tape it into your planner or where ever helps you stay on top of your monthly, weekly, and daily goals. There is also a refresher section for each season (Spring, Summer, and Fall) where you can work through if your goals need and adjustment.

Something new for 2018 is that they have added places for you to add wildcard sheets - which is a sheet you'll print out and tape into your Powersheets. The topics you can choose from are:
  • Monthly Calendar
  • Perpetual Calendar
  • Financial Check-In
  • Monthly Budget
  • Meal Plan
  • Fitness Plan
  • Content Planning
  • Relationship Tending
  • Reading List
  • Cultivating a Life-Giving Home
  • Organization and Decluttering
  • Self Care
  • Goal Progress

For me, this has been a GAME CHANGER! I have never stuck with a planner, EVER... and here I am in October still working through it. Some months, I've been late to the game... but I'm still working with it. Lara is all about imperfect progress, and how every step you take adds up over time toward your bigger goals.

The 2018 PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner from Lara Casey on Vimeo.

Today, I'm here to tell you that as of 10AM Eastern (9AM Central) tomorrow morning -- the 2018 PowerSheets Collection will be available for order!!! SET YOURSELF AN ALARM! This year they have Tending Tape (Washi Tape), pens (only in the accessories bundle, and my personal favorite goal setting stickers! There are 900 or more stickers set and ready to be used in your Powersheets -- if you love stickers and color -- grab 2! You can see some of them on my tending list for this year -- but the 2018 stickers are smaller so they fit on the lines more easily.

They've got the 1 Year Dated set (which is only dated in that it has the months preprinted on the tabs), and 3 different 6 month sets - so you'd need two of them to get through 2018 - they do tend to sell out so you might want to get 2 now if you choose to do that. A great feature is that for 3 days - they will offer free shipping on orders of $100... so get whatever you need and get the free shipping!

2018 PowerSheets Collection
The multi-colored cover is the 1 Year Book, the other 3 (Teal, Gold, and Poppy Pink) are the 6-month versions.

Please hear me say that you don't have to be afraid of using this planner -- make a mess of it -- let it work in your life! Want to learn more? Check out this webinar TODAY about how they work and a look inside!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Church of the Small Things Study

I finished the most amazing book last night y'all! I laughed and I cried. Just a beautiful message with some amazing stories woven in.

Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle... who, let's face it... I couldn't love anymore if I tried. She makes me laugh harder than most other authors, and I've read all 4 of her books now... and can't wait for another to come out in March of 2018.

Her other 3 books: Sparkly Green Earrings (parenting), Antelope in the Living Room (marriage), and Nobody's Cuter Than You (friendship) are also amazing! She also has another book Everyday Holy coming out in March 2018 that you could pre-order now if you want to. 
Now, the reason I wanted to post again today -- I mean 2 in one day, y'all -- who am I? Faith Gateway is hosting a Bible Study based on the Church of the Small Things - for 6 weeks, and it begins on October 23 -- so sign up before then! 
You DO NOT have to read the book to work through the Bible Study Guide -- you can buy it from the Faith Gateway site, but Amazon has a slightly better price... and possibly faster shipping.
Either way, I'd love to have you join me in this study -- so drop me a note and let me know if you decide to sign up for it too! I know you won't regret going through these lessons! 

Minecraft Ghast Pinata

We chose this time to make a Ghast pinata, but you could easily make this as a TNT, Creeper, Enderman, or really anything Minecraft your child's heart desires. We got the idea from another blogger, but there are some design changes we would make when we do it again... which apparently will happen in April because James is determined to have everything Tyler did. (Don't worry friends that attended... there will be changes and some different ideas.)

Supplies Needed:
print out of the face of your pinata
1 (24pk) Pepsi or any other soft drink that has a square box
Candy and/or toys to fill the pinata
masking tape
scotch tape
glue stick
bottle of glue
wrapping paper in the color that matches your pinata (explained below)
crepe paper matching your pinata (explained below)
2 zip ties

We started by letting Tyler fill the pinata with candy and little toys for all the kids. He was so funny making sure to fill it precisely in a specific pattern... even though when you move it, the candy and toys will shift and mix together.

Use masking tape and seal all the edges. We used a butter knife to split all of the seams gently so that we didn't disturb the cube shape. This is a 24 pack of Pepsi box that we used, but you could do this with any 24 pack that you can get. (I don't know if they make these shape packs for Coke.)

Wrap the box after you seal all of the seams with white wrapping paper, or use whatever you have that you can wrap the box with the design on the inside. You'll want the white on the outside so that it doesn't interfere with your design. If you do a different design - consider using the base color of your design for your wrapping paper... for instance, if you do a Creeper -- I'd do green paper; Enderman -- black paper; TNT -- red paper; and so on.

We made an excel template that had the face designs for all of our craft projects... (spoiler alert, I can email this to anyone that might be interested in making one of your own.) this template was very helpful. Glue the design onto the box with a glue stick. We put the extra gray pieces on the box but ended up covering most of them with the crepe paper.

We took the crepe paper and cut little frays into one side of the strips... for the texture. (if you look at the very bottom of the box you can see how it was cut so that you see the little fringe effect) We used a bottle of school glue and a brush to glue the top edge of each piece of crepe paper to the box. This takes a while, and we set it on another smaller box to be able to let it dry and get finished. 

Here it is all finished and drying for a bit -- we added the crepe paper to the sides and a sign to the back so that we didn't have quite as much to glue there. We found a Minecraft font and downloaded it to use for our sign, and we downloaded images from Google to use on the sign.

Here it is in action -- next time we make one of these -- we will cut some cardboard from an Amazon box or something to help strengthen the top where you attach the rope - so our plan is that we'd add a piece or two across the top inside of the Pepsi box just below the handle, secure it to the sides, and then attach the rope there because once you fill it with candy it's just a bit too heavy for the original handle to hold it up. We had 12 kids hit this thing, but with the first initial swing the handle gave way -- we were lucky it lasted through everyone getting one turn to hit it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Back At It...

Hi, Everyone that is still around... all like maybe 3 of you.

Life is crazy, and I've been such a crazy perfection driven goal setter in my life... if you don't know what I'm talking about... do yourself a favor and order Jon Acuff's newest book, Finish, it'll explain everything. The basic idea though is that we all set goals, and have this vision of getting them done perfectly. When perfect doesn't happen, we quit. If this isn't me... I don't know what is! If you haven't read any of Jon's books - be prepared to get inspired, and laugh a LOT.

I have planned so many times to pick this whole blogging thing back up... and it hasn't gone perfectly, so I gave up on it. It's really sad too because I dearly love writing and the process of putting your thoughts down on "paper." 

The closer I get to 40, the more I'm thinking about the intentional things I do with my time. There are a LOT of things coming up in the next few months that I want to share with anyone that wants to read my words. 

I hope that you've had a great few months since my last round of posting, and I promise to be better. I am not going to commit to any specific timelines on posting, but I'm going to do my very best to be around as much or as often as I have something to share.

This past week, we've had my younger son, Tyler's, 7th birthday party. As with most kids in that age group right now - it was a Minecraft themed party... so I plan to share some of the DIY items that we put together for the celebration. We made a pinata, the cake, and some fun balloon decorations. We felt okay in taking them on because "how hard can a bunch of pixelated things be?" Oh my friends... famous last words.

We did manage to get it all done and a good time was had by all! I'll share about the party and a couple of the items we made tomorrow -- then more throughout this week. Next week, I want to tell you about a couple other things that are coming up quickly.

One other quick thing, OurPact, one of the apps that we use on a daily basis with our kids is increasing their prices very soon for their premium package - which is what we have. This app is good for both Apple Devices and Android... but their monthly cost will soon go from $4.99 to 6.99 for the premium service. If you sign up - you get locked in at the $4.99 price rather than the higher one. They also have free versions and lower plans as well that you can choose from.

**I am not getting any affiliate rewards or kickbacks for telling you about this - I just wanted to help save you some money if you're looking for a service like this. I've tried a few different ones, and this seems to be doing the trick for us.

We use it to have certain hours that our kids are allowed to use their iPads (they don't come on until 7AM, for instance), I can block certain apps, and you can give screen time allowances -- which we love. Here is a list of all the premium features:

Individual App Control
• Screen Time Allowances• Child App Installs Display• iMessage/SMS Management• Family Locator• iOS Safe Browser• iOS App Scrambling Solution• Management of up to 20 child devices• Unlimited Manual blocks• Unlimited Automated Schedules