Friday, April 27, 2012

Diy Papel Picado Cake Bunting

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To go along with our Dora party fiesta in March, I made a little banner for the top of the birthday cake.  I was inspired by traditional papel picado, those beautiful, intricately cut tissue paper banners that decorate Mexican celebrations. I decided to use regular old colored construction paper instead of tissue paper because A) it gave the banner some heft and made it less fragile, and B) I had no idea how to even go about making a little banner out of cut tissue! It was a very quick little craft and made the birthday cake look extra festive.

Materials & Tools
papel-picado-fiesta-cake-bunting

colored construction paper
bamboo skewers
string or baker's twine
decorative edge punch
glue stick or double-stick tape
scissors

Steps

1. Cut your construction paper into little rectangles and fold them in half.  Put some glue on the inside of each folded paper, lay the string right in the fold, and glue the paper to itself, enclosing the string. Repeat with all rectangles.
2. When all of the papers are glued onto the string, punch the bottom of each paper with the edge punch.
3. Tie each end of the string to a skewer, and pop that baby onto the top of a cake. Instant fiesta!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mexican Tissue Paper Flowers

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I have a deep, undying love for all things Tex-Mex. It might be due to the fact that we lived in San Antonio for a few years when I was in elementary school. Whatever made me this way, I'm sure grateful for it! I love the fajitas they used to grill in front of the grocery store. I love the sopapillas they would bring at Pancho's when you ran the tiny Mexican flag up the little flagpole. I love the long, flouncy mexican-style skirt with the orange, red, yellow, and green layers that I dressed up in until the elastic in the waist gave out. *sigh*

So when my 4 year-old asked for a Dora party fiesta for her birthday this year, I jumped at the chance to fancy up the house with some south-of-the-border flair. Instead of buying a bouquet of flowers for our centerpiece, I made a few traditional Mexican paper flowers. They were easy to make and looked beautiful, and they added the perfect authentic fiesta touch to our party. Make some today for your Cinco de Mayo festivities next week!

Materials

tissue paper in various happy colors
wire or pipe cleaners

Steps

1. Stack up 4-6 sheets of different colored tissue paper.
2 & 3. Accordian fold the stack of tissue.
4. Wrap some wire or a pipe cleaner around the folded paper to create a stem.

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5. Starting with the inner-most color, gently pull the paper up and toward the center.
6-8. Repeat with all of the other colors, making sure to shape them into a circle as you go.

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9. Voila! Flower!
10. But if it happens to be a little too big, squish the bottom and
11. put a rubber band around it.
12. Voila! Slightly smaller flower!

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Of Fonts & Fizzes


I don't know how many of you noticed, but I changed my fonts last week. It was actually kind of exciting, I figured out how to do it all by myself, and I couldn't have been more pleased with how they looked. Sadly, a reader let me know over the weekend that the post font was nearly impossible to read {insert sad face here}. So, I've changed the post font again. Please let me know if the font is ugly, doesn't match, or is hard to read. Or if you just plain hate my guts, you can let me know that too. ;)

Now, on to fun things! A few weeks ago, I discovered something new and wonderful on the juice aisle of the grocery store: Very Cherre tart cherry juices. The packaging is super cute, and the flavors are yummy. The kids like to drink it straight, but the grown-ups in these here parts like to mix ours with some seltzer and have it over crushed ice. It all feels very sophisticated, especially compared to the three boxes of Phineas and Ferb mac-n-cheese I just bought.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Our Favorite Chocolate Frosting

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Chocolate frosting can be a tricky thing (or rather, used to be). Up until very recently, I thought there were two versions, both flawed. Version #1: chocolate frosting made with cocoa powder and softened butter. This makes a light, fluffy frosting that tastes like cocoa powder. My brain wants to put eating cocoa powder in the same category as eating sawdust and instant coffee granules (i.e., not good). Version #2:  chocolate frosting made with cocoa powder and melted butter. This makes a really delicious, fudgey chocolate frosting, but as the melted butter cools and starts to re-solidify, the frosting hardens and turns into fudge. It tastes great, but you have to be lightening quick to use it before it hardens. Not very forgiving stuff!

A few weeks ago, when I was making my 4 year-old's birthday cake, I wanted a chocolate frosting that combined the fluffiness of frosting made with softened butter and the rich chocolate taste of one made with melted butter. The answer is melted chocolate! Somehow, the melted chocolate and softened butter combine to make a chocolate frosting that is both rich and fudgey AND light and fluffy. We've made this frosting twice in the past 3 weeks, and I tell you it has changed lives! That's what we're all about here on Lulu the Baker:  changing lives, one chocolate frosting recipe at a time.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Activities

Can you believe that we are already past the middle of April?! At first glance, this Cinco de Mayo post seems awfully early, but May 5th is two short weeks from Saturday! A few years ago, when our oldest was too young for official preschool, I taught a Cinco de Mayo lesson in our little, four-kiddo preschool co-op. The little ones loved all of the activities, and the Cinco de Mayo lesson post on my old blog is to this day the most popular post.

If you'd like the recipe for fruit nachos, directions for how to play "Simon Says" in Spanish, ideas for Cinco de Mayo books for kids, or a few quick, fun art activities, click HERE!


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Monday, April 16, 2012

Our Favorite Chocolate Cupcakes


I know there are people out there who think the whole cupcake craze is passé and, dare I say, lame. Well I think those people are crazy! What's not to love in a cupcake? They are delicious, adorable, portable, and relatively mess-free. They can be simple or sophisticated, homey or high-class, and are perfect for any occasion.

Here's our go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes. We've tried them with cream cheese frosting, peppermint frosting, vanilla frosting, and chocolate frosting, and they've been sensational every single time. In our house at least, the cupcake craze doesn't look like it's ending any time soon!

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Minestrone with Italian Sausage and Kale


Everyone in our family loves soup (ok, not the 4 year-old, but she only eats Rice Krispies and canned peaches these days), and here in the cool, cloudy Pacific Northwest, it is still soup season. My Nana discovered this minestrone recipe in the local paper a few weeks ago. She called me right away to tell me how delicious it was and to share some with us. We've since adopted it as our new favorite soup; go Nana! While my usual minestrone recipe is perfect for the warmer summer months ahead, this hearty version with sausage, potatoes, and kale is savory and satisfying on a cold, drizzly evening.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Adventures in Backyard Farming: Springtime


Spring is a busy time here on our backyard farm. In the middle of February, we sowed our first group of seeds:  snap peas, garden peas, radishes, beets, carrots, and turnips, and lettuces and bok choy in the hotbox.  Some might say that, in light of the heavy snow we got at the end of March, it was too early to begin gardening.  But we like to shun conventional gardening wisdom and fly by the seat of our pants here!  Plus, everything is growing like crazy, so no harm, no foul.
sewing radish seeds
sewing beet seeds
from left:  radishes, garden peas, and snap peas
Lesson #3 in Backyard Farming:  Build yourself a hotbox.  Your lettuces will grow 5 times faster and be relatively bug free.  We tried growing lettuce a few summers ago, but I began obsessively examining each leaf for bugs before I'd let anyone eat it, and we had to put the kibosh on the whole endeavor.
lovely lettuces growing in the hotbox
Just so you can see the contrast, these lettuce seeds were planted on the same day as those in the hotbox (pictured above)!
We also planted an entire bed of seed potatoes in our backyard. It will yield many, many more pounds of delicious Rose Finn Apple Potatoes than we can possibly consume, but my husband is of Irish descent, and I think he is trying to avoid another potato famine.
seed potatoes
The orchard on the backyard farm is absolutely bursting with blossoms.  Our Rainier Cherry is covered with buds; we expect a huge harvest this summer, and plan on being both gout- and constipation-free well into September! We're also hoping to get more than the handful of italian plums we've gotten every other year, and are hopeful that our four potted peach trees will produce enough fruit to make a pie (just one pie, that's all we ask!).
cherry buds
peach blossoms
We also have lots of strawberry plants and a few blueberry bushes.

Lesson #4 in Backyard Farming:  Picking blueberries is awful.  It's kind of like a weird nightmare where you pick and pick and pick, but there never seem to be fewer blueberries on the bush.  In fact, I think for every blueberry you pick, two pop up in its place!


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On the real farm, things are also growing. 


our piggies (breeders, not eaters)--rose, sadie, and dolly
two Speckled Sussex hens
The rare breed--definitely not a Cuckoo Maran as originally thought.  Possibly an Egyptian Fayoumis.  10 points to anyone who can help us correctly identify him/her.
For more Lessons in Backyard Farming, click HERE.
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April Favorites Winner!

A quick congrats to Cathy, commenter #9, for winning a copy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home and a really, really big bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs!

PS--March's winner, don't think I've forgotten you.  Hang in there!
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Strawberry Cream Tunnel Cake

My mom and I got to split dessert duty for Easter dinner. She decided to go the chocolate route with chocolate chess pie, so I tried to think of something light and fruity that would be a nice contrast. The last time I had Strawberry Cream Tunnel Cake was ages ago, sometime in my childhood, but its been on my mind a lot lately for some reason, and Sunday was the perfect time to try it out. And it couldn't have been a more perfect springtime dessert! The angel food cake is light and sweet, the strawberries are fresh and fruity, and the creamy filling is bright and tangy; it is kind of like strawberry shortcake, only inside-out! And in addition to being lovely, it is super easy to make.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Lemonade Cake


When I think of Easter desserts, I always think citrus, and more specifically lemon. I'm pretty sure if we took a poll, most people would think the same thing:  lemon desserts are perfect for Easter. Maybe it has something to do with freshness and sunshine. In the past few years, our Easter desserts have included Triple Lemon Cheesecake, Lemon-Filled Coconut Cake, and a copycat version of Marie Callender's Lemon Cream Cheese Pie, which is my husband's favorite. This year, I jumped the gun just a tad and made this Lemonade Cake to get us all in the Easter spirit. It was sweet and tangy and moist, and the lemonade cream cheese frosting was out of this world! The only problem is we ate it all rather quickly, and now we have nothing for dessert on Sunday!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April Favorites {Give-Away}

A random collection of favorites for April!


1.  favorite online class addiction:  Alt Design Summit classes
I don't know what my favorite part about these amazing online classes is. Maybe it's the attractive $15 price tag. Maybe it's the blogging and social media tips from experts in design and blogging. Maybe it's the fun craziness of trying to keep up with the teacher's slide show and lecture while simultaneously taking notes and participating in a live chat, all crammed into 1 hour while I try to keep my kids occupied and out of my hair. I've taken two classes so far and have plans to sign up for at least half a dozen more!

2.  favorite Easter candy:  Cadbury Mini Eggs
We're trying to go mostly candy-free this Easter, but I've made an exception for a few packs of Cadbury Mini Eggs. Of course, the kids might have to pry them out of my hands if they want some... {photo seen on Cherry Blossom Fitness}

My last foray into Easter dress-making was so frustrating that I almost swore off of it completely. But these little outfits were so adorable and sweet, and the tutorials so easy, that I couldn't resist dusting off my sewing machine. And I was not disappointed! Cute, easy, quick. {photos used with permission, from MADE and Make It and Love It}

For dinner club a few weeks ago, I was assigned to create sundaes using ice cream flavors from Jeni Britton Bauer's new cookbook. I chose Lemon Frozen Yogurt and Roasted Strawberry with Buttermilk, and they were both amazing! Both flavors achieved the perfect balance of tart and sweet, and the ice creams were incredibly silky and smooth. I decided to buy myself a copy of the cookbook, and I bought you a copy too--hurray hurrah!

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Give-Away:  I'm giving away one copy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home and one bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs.  You won't get them in time for Easter, but I actually think that's better. You'll get them after the stores stop carrying them--a sweet little post-Easter treat!

To enter, leave a comment on this post. Please include your email if I can't otherwise find it. Mention the give-away on facebook, twitter, or your blog and you can get one extra entry; just leave an additional comment. I'll choose a winner next Wednesday.  Best of Luck, and Happy Easter!
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