Monday, June 25, 2012

Wedding Cake Push Pops

Another huge project for my brother-in-law's wedding (see other post about Yarn Balls) was the Cake Push Pop Project!

Originally my SIL thought she'd like to do a cake pop cake instead of a traditional cake. She'd been perusing Pinterest for a while and thought it'd be fun and original. We even made some sample recipes and cake pops one day. Then, after some more Pinterest exploring, she came up the idea of cake push pops. She saw them here and here. She shopped around online for a while to find the best deal for the containers.

On the Thursday before the wedding, we finally got the recipes finalized: chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and oreo buttercream frosting AND strawberry cake and lemonade filling and frosting. 

She had a lot of different and creative ideas (as in the links above), but we needed to make sure to use buttercream frosting (for storage and display) and they had to be able to have the caps on them. Heidi also found this idea for display and had our father-in-law make one of them! 

For the chocolate cake, we used her family's Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe and this oreo buttercream recipe. (The link, however appears to be broken, but this one is similar). 

For the other, we used strawberry cake mix and this lemonade buttercream recipe. If you make the lemonade frosting, DO NOT follow the amount for the koolaid. Our first batch of frosting was SUPER tart. I'd suggest adding half a packet at a time while you mix, until the taste is right.

Here are our cake push pop baking adventures:

Making the cake batter.

I baked 6 cakes. (Well actually 7 because I may or may not have forgotten the baking soda in one and it was totally ruined.) I baked each cake in long shallow dishes. I used a variety of jelly roll pans, baking sheets with sides, and large pyrex.

That night our SIL Amanda came over while I finished baking cakes, and she started punching out holes in the finished cakes. 

We took an empty push pop container and just punched out circles of cake right next to each other. Amanda used the "squeeze" technique to get the circle out. I used a "push up on one side and then pull the circle out" technique.

Leftover scraps.

Piles of cakes. Each cake made about 20-25 circles.

Cake all over my kitchen!

On Friday, the bride, Heidi, came over to work on assembling the push pops.

With the first batch, we laid them out all over the table so that we could count exactly how many we had. 

The bride in the kitchen! We used two kitchenaids to get all the frostings made.

My BIL (the groom) and nephew even helped assemble them!

1. Put container together
2. Put one circle in the bottom of the container
3. Squeeze of frosting
4. circle of cake
5. squeeze of frosting
6. last circle of cake
7. pretty squeeze of frosting
8. put the cap on

We leaned a few things:
-Make sure the frosting isn't too runny, or it will not hold shape if you lay them on their side. 
-You should have a way to let them sit upright for a little while even if the frosting is thick enough, or it can fall off onto the side of the container. 
-Make WAY more frosting than you think. I thought 2 batches of frosting of each type for 3 cakes would be enough since they were just little dollops and not icing an entire cake. But no. We had to make more. Probably at lest 4 batches of frosting for 3 cakes were used.

Ta! Da!

The final project at the wedding!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vegetable Garden is Making Progress

Our garden has been sadly neglected, besides watering, over the last several BUSY weeks. This week I told  myself I HAD to give it some TLC if I wanted any produce. Though it has been crazy working in the morning, gardening til 4, showering, and then going to the fair at church til 11, it looks great now!

What it looked like when I started on Monday. Adam had rototilled between the rows, but a couple feet on either side of the plants was all grass and weeds.

The raised beds looked like raised beds of grass!

I have created a top list of the worst vegetables and fruits (grown from seeds) to try to leave behind while weeding out a field of grass.
4. Watermelon-They don't have the same shape leaves like the other cucurbits and their leaves look similar to a type of weed we have. 
3. Cherry Tomatoes -Their only redeeming quality is they smell like tomatoes. When in doubt smell the leaves.
2. Carrots and Dill-They are so skinny and have barely any root system. It is far too easy to pull out a plant. 
1. Green Onions-You will see a picture of those in a minute. They are like strands of green hair sticking up in a field of grass.

This is supposed to be a raised bed of dill. All I see is grass.

I was able to find some dill in there. Yay! Dill for my pickles!

Duh Duh Duuuuuhhh.....
The Green Onions
Imagine with me. Finding this.

In a field of this (at the bottom). 


In a field of THIS. 
I actually probably did find about 10 green onions. But that's it. Either no more grew or I weeded them out. Ah well.

After wedding for 2 hours on Tuesday and 3.5 hours on Wednesday (nevermind the 95 degree heat!) and Adam rototilled between the rows, it looks great again!

This year we decided to try using grass clippings as weed control. Adam raked up grass clippings from the last time he mowed (we won't talk about when that was) and I spread them on either side of my plants. Not TOO close they suffocate. But close enough so that it keeps some weeds away. When he mows again, I will spread more between the rows.

Introducing our garden!

Butternut squash and zucchini

Which I may never plant again. I've never had great luck. They are so tiny. And do you know who has great carrots? THE GROCERY STORE!

summer squash and spaghetti squash

big boy tomatoes and cherry tomatoes

cantaloupe and watermelon


yellow onions and green onions (see, so tiny you can't even see them!)

green beans

sugar snap peas

3 rows of cucumbers

garlic (for my pickles)

dill (for my pickles)

(Don't look at the two raised beds I didn't get to!)

My weed pile from 2 days of weeding.


My whole body was covered in dirt!

I am really hoping to have some success with the watermelon and cantaloupe this year. Last year we had 1 good cantaloupe and some animals got to the rest. We planted them in the middle of the garden rather than the end this year to hopefully help with that. 

The only things that look like they have failed are: lemon cucumbers (never tried them before, they just looked cool) and strawberries. Not enough water? Too much sun? Don't know. 

My next order of business is to stake up the sugar snap peas! And weed the last two raised beds. One is the probably all dead strawberries. And the other is asparagus. We won't get that this year, but it looks like some plants ARE growing. Maybe next year!

The Grossest Bugs in the Entire World

Don't worry. This post won't have any pictures. The last thing I need is more pictures of gross bugs to keep me up at night!

I've been majorly working in the vegetable garden this week (pictures to come) and I'm super excited about how all my plants are coming along! 

When I am gardening these are the types of creepy crawly things I see:
big spiders
big spiders with egg sacs attached to them
ants of all sizes

Do I freak out? No. I don't really like them ON me. But they belong out in nature. It's cool. 

This week inside my house, these are the things I have seen:
earwig right next to me on the toilet
earwig ON MY ARM in the shower
earwig on the bottom of the tub
earwig on the ceiling in the office that fell and I had to find it
earwig in a doorway
(maybe an earwig in the bed when I was taking a nap, but more likely a dream because I often dream about bugs in my bed when I am sleeping. It is annoying and upsetting). 
big fast spider in the bathroom
big fat fly in the bedroom (this wasn't upsetting, just annoying at 3 am)

Do I freak out? YES. GROSS CREEPY BUGS do NOT belong in my house. DO NOT BELONG! I just can't handle it. I have had more than one melt down this week because of them. Outside? Bugs are fine. Inside my house? NOT FINE.

And earwigs? SO gross. If you don't know what they are, you should probably look it up so you know how awful it is. The other night I kept waking up because I was sure I heard their pincers. You can't hear their pincers. That's just ridiculous. I woke up nonetheless. And every time I'd jump out of bed, pull the covers back, and look around the whole room. 

In addition, because of the earwig on the ceiling in the office, I'd had to walk around my house like a ninja. Every time I enter a room, I scan the ceiling, walls, and then floor to ensure there are no earwigs around. 

Adam has now laid special granule pesticide around the entire perimeter of the house, in the cellar AND on the roof (in the dark last night). He says if there is one more we are calling an exterminator. Our neighbor told him he has an exterminator and never sees a single bug in his house. He told Adam it is worth the money so he doesn't have to deal with his wife and daughter freaking out about bugs!

So that has been my terrible buggy week. 


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Yarn Ball Madness

On Saturday, Adam's youngest brother married his girlfriend of several years, Heidi. She has always seemed like a member of the family, but now it is official! She has been Pinterest crazed throughout the wedding process, but all of her DIY projects pulled together to make a beautiful, fun, and original wedding. 

Several months ago she found some yarn ball ideas on Pinterest that she wanted to try out. I love to try out a new project, so I volunteered to try it for her! The original idea was to make some large yarn balls to hang from the ceiling as decoration like this photo here. Or this one. After some consideration, Heidi decided hanging things from the ceiling may not be feasible, so she had the idea to make them centerpieces. She wanted one large balloon and two small on every table. 14 tables. 42 yarn balls! AHH!!!!

But I attacked the project with gusto! And lots of tweets. I probably read EVERY SINGLE blog tutorial about yarn balls on the entire Internet. These seemed so easy. But it WAS NOT this easy! This tutorial was more helpful. Because I had several fails. I kept having to go back to the drawing board. After reading all the posts, however, I have come up with the No Fail Recipe For Yarn Balls.

(I don't know why they are aligned left.)

No corn starch

The first few times I left them on my table. They had a flatter spot, but were OK. Just not conducive for doing 42 of them. 

Some of my other fails and successes. One totally fell apart and the strings are everywhere. Another totally crumpled when I popped the balloon (pre-Vaseline). Another was very soft. 

So onto my fabulous NO FAIL Yarn Ball Recipe procedure.

First, I ordered yarn balls from Amazon.
These were the small balloons
These were the large balloons.
I would recommend the large ones. They were great circles. I wouldn't recommend the small ones, they were really hard to make sure they weren't egg shaped. To make them not egg shaped took a lot of squeezing, blowing up, and letting air out.

-balloons in the sizes you need (more than you think you will need)
-yarn in the color you want (I used 1 1 pound skein of yarn for 42 plus balls)
-Elmer's craft glue or Elmer's all purpose glue (depending on the price/amount you need)
-warm water
-corn starch
-safety pins
-two folding chairs to hold them up
-Vaseline (yup, you read that right)
-baking sheet

Blow up your balloons to the size you want.

String yarn between two folding chairs (see picture at bottom).

Lube up your balloons. The Vaseline REALLY helps ensure the balloons pop smoothly and the glue doesn't stick to the balloon. Just rube it all over until it is thick. You don't need a ton.

Use safety pins to pin the balloon to your yarn string.

Make your glue mixture. What I found works best:
mix 1/2 cup warm water with 1 cup corn starch
(Though towards the end I started using equal parts water and corn starch and it seemed to work FINE. Maybe just not as thick)
Add mixture to about 8 oz of glue (2 small bottles of craft glue or part of a larger bottle)
Mix it all up!

Start feeding the end of your yarn into the mixtrure a little at a time so it doesn't get tangled up. Feed  quite a bit, whatever you think you will need. Mush it around and make sure it is thoroughly coated.  

Start pulling it out by the end. Squeeze the yarn so the excess glue comes off. Pile the freshly squeezed glue off to the side until you get to the dry part. 

Start your wrapping!
Hold the balloon and start wrapping vertically first. Then start on angles all around until it is all covered the way you want!

Keep going until you have all of your yarn balls done!

Or actually another important part.
Wait at least 12-24 hours until they are completely dried. COMPLETELY. If they are still a little wet on the bottom, WAIT. No, it will not be OK. It will be floppy and flat. STOP. IT WILL NOT BE OK. Just wait a little longer. 

After they seem to be completely dry, pop your balloons with an extra safety pin. DO NOT do this near food. Not that I did that the first time....of course not. But in case you thought about it, little glue bit may go flying everywhere and your husband may say "WHAT the....?" But that wouldn't happen because you wouldn't do it near food. 

Pull the safety pins and balloon out of yarn ball. 

Now, I don't know if this is 100% necessary, but it helped me feel better about them being completely drying, but at the end I put them all in the oven for 45 minutes at 200 degrees. 

DO NOT and I really mean DO NOT put them in at 350 to speed up the process. If you do, your husband may come home and say, "What smells like smoke in here?" and then you will run to the oven and you will have burnt yarn balls. And you will try to spray paint them white and they will look terrible and you will make new ones. In just a hypothetical situation of course...

Take them out of the oven and put them on the counter. They will be a little soft until they cool off. Then they will be perfect! You can store them in a box or garbage bag safely.

 The yarn balls on the table at the wedding! I may have posed with them for more than one photo with the disposable cameras.

The happy couple!

Adam and me!

No Fail Yarn Ball Recipe at a Glance 

-balloons in the sizes you need (more than you think you will need)
-yarn in the color you want (I used 1 1 pound skein of yarn for 42 plus balls)
-Elmer's craft glue or Elmer's all purpose glue (depending on the price/amount you need)
-warm water
-corn starch
-safety pins
-two folding chairs to hold them up
-Vaseline (yup, you read that right)
-baking sheet

Make your glue mixture. What I found works best:
mix 1/2 cup warm water with 1 cup corn starch
(Though towards the end I started using equal parts water and corn starch and it seemed to work FINE. Maybe just not as thick)
Add mixture to about 8 oz of glue (2 small bottles of craft glue or part of a larger bottle)
Mix it all up!

String yarn between two folding chairs (see picture at bottom).
Lube up your balloons.
Use safety pins to pin the balloon to your yarn string.
Feed your yarn into the glue and get it all covered. 
Pull it out while squeezing off excess glue. 
Start wrapping!
Wait 12-24 hours to dry.
Pop with safety pin and pull out through opening. 
Put in over for 45 minutes at 200. 

Voila! Yarn balls!

*You could use different colors of yarn for different colored balls. I am even thinking about experimenting with using two different colors on one. We shall see!