Friday, November 30, 2012

Kindness Matters

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Today was a special day. A very special person has a birthday.  You may remember her from a previous post..
If you didn’t read this post from back in May, please do.  She is a remarkable person!  Just click on the picture above and it will take you right to the post.
From the post you learned that she is a Kindergarten teacher and she not only teaches all the normal “school stuff” but she has something called the “Kool Kindergarten Kindness Club” where she reaches out to people with cards that are sent from her class.  All the kids sign the cards and are told who and why they are going to certain individuals.  Whether it be a happy event, like a birth, or a not-so happy event, like illness, their cards go far and wide, all over the country and world to help bring a smile to many faces.  She instills in her students compassion and love and teaches them to think of others.  I think it’s one of the best things I have ever heard of and I am so happy my son got to experience her class.  He still sits down and makes cards for people to this day, and heaven help me if I forget a thank-you card…he’s all over it. 
I told this to you so this will make sense..
I got my craft on this week.  I ran across a very cool stencil that reminded me so much of Mrs. Glascott that I knew I had to make her something with it.  So I got out my handy dandy Mod Podge and went to town. 
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I honestly have a hard time not “mod podging” everything in my house. It is soo awesome. 
I simply took a thin piece of ply wood that I found at Michael’s and tore up a couple sheets of scrap book paper and attached the paper to the board like this..
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until the whole thing was covered completely.  Once it was dry, I took some sand paper and sanded the edges, just slightly coming up over the side and sanding the paper too, so it gave a “frayed” edge effect.  Then I took plain white acrylic paint and watered it down slightly to make a white wash and I applied a thin coat over the whole thing…
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Once that was dry, I applied a thin coat of crackle medium and allowed that to dry also. 
Then I stenciled the saying “Kindness Matters” over the top, just slightly above center.  I free hand painted a few little kids on the bottom and affixed a wooden heart in the middle, that I painted pink and applied a textured glitter medium over it.  Then, along the top edge of the board, I free hand painted some little flowers.  Because of the crackle medium, the words and paintings all have a slightly crackled appearance.  At the last minute, I attached some little rhinestones to the middle of the flowers and then the whole thing was sprayed very lightly with glitter. 
..you knew I would work some rhinestones and glitter in there, didn’t you?  If I didn’t, someone should call a doctor immediately.
Anyhoo, this is what I came up with..
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I think it is rather befitting for a Kindergarten teacher, don’t you?  When I took this to her this morning, she asked me, “Why did you do this?!” 
My answer is simple…why not?  No one deserves it more.
Happy Birthday Mrs. G!
 
Have A Great Weekend,
love,
Val

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, this evening’s post is a bust.  I was going to finally give my Birchbox review, but unfortunately I left my camera at my Mother’s, which means I also left my SD card there too….with all my pictures….of my Birchbox  goodies….I think you’re getting my drift here. I also woke up and realized it’s Wednesday evening and I totally skipped Monday’s post, but I have a couple good excuses…
1. I have been decorating like a mad woman. Really, I can prove it..
Here is my tree..
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It’s all “Santa Claus” themed.  My boys love it!
Here is my house..
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I actually cheated and put up all of those decorations three weeks ago when it was 70 degrees.  But, I had to walk all the way across the yard, bend down and plug them in…it was exhausting.
2. I’ve been trying to come up with unique places to hide “Elf on the Shelf”.  If you haven’t heard about it, here is a link to learn more…http://www.elfontheshelf.com/   Our elf is named Fred Mistletoe.  He’s ornery.  One morning we found him in the cement mixer of one of the boys’ big Tonka trucks.  This morning we found him like this..
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Evidently going on a fast trip to the North Pole really makes a guy hungry!  Wonder where he’ll be in the morning?
3.  Time to brag…I have my Christmas shopping done.  …Until I remember someone I forgot.  But I do have all the “Santa” stuff done for my boys, so that is 90% of the battle.  Something my Hubby found on Etsy that we thought was awesome..
Grandpa Charles makes some awesome hand carved, wooden toys like these..
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Our boys are going to love them.  If you have some boys or need some cool gift ideas, check his store out!
4.  Along with decorating my house, I’ve been decorating the salon, practicing for a Christmas Concert with the choir and the Quartet I sing with (which means I am learning around 9 songs at once,yikes!) taking my Hubby to a post-op visit (he’s doing great!), and getting all my recipes ready for a Christmas Cookie bonanza that will be happening sometime in the near future.  ..oh, and throw work in there too.
..so that is how I woke up and it’s Wednesday (I think) …and my house is in disarray  ..and I haven’t ran in a week …and my jeans are going to start shrinking soon. 
So if you see me walking around in sweatpants, covered in glitter, smelling like cookies, wrapping paper stuck in my hair, with a very “froggy” sounding voice…you’ll know why..
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
No really, it is and I love Christmas!
Have a very enjoyable Wednesday evening.
love,
Val
p.s.  I am also crafting something for my friend’s birthday that is coming up on Friday.  (You know who you are) Can’t wait to share it soon!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Card

Okay, I decided to go ahead and share my Christmas card photos because …well, I am HORRIBLE at waiting to give presents or surprises.  If I buy a present, I can’t wait until a birthday or Christmas to give it to someone, I just have to take it to them right now.  I am an instant gratification gift giver, and I guess this kinda falls in the same category.  So, if you are going to receive a Christmas card from my family this year and still want to be surprised…look away now.  I also thought that maybe this might give someone out there an idea or two for there own card, so feel free to go crazy and improve upon my idea.  Without further delay..
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My sweetness, my joy, my loves.  I haven’t taken the lights off yet.  …just kidding.
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and our family pic.  Here is a collage I designed..
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I hope you enjoyed these and if you have an awesome picture, please feel free to share!
Have A Wonderful Sunday,
love,
Val

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Day

Tuesday was my youngest son’s preschool Thanksgiving breakfast.  The kids performed the cutest songs and then we had all ate together. It was very nice for all the kids and parents.
When we sat down to our table, the teacher’s had these little booklets entitled “Turkey Tips” displayed in the middle…
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When I opened it up, there were tips from the preschoolers on how to cook at turkey, and oh, were there some crazy ideas. Here are four of my favorites…
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…I love that this little girl’s family names their turkeys “Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner”. …I just hope they are frozen turkeys and not turkeys that are running around the yard, unknowingly being referred to by their impending deaths.  ..that would just make it cruel.
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..1. I didn’t know you could get a turkey at the mall.  2. I didn’t know you could roll a turkey up. & 3. I think he is on to something with the hotdogs and ice cream.
 
tip4

..I think she’s on to something with the gummy bears, dinosaurs and brownies.
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This is my little munchkin’s tip.  He’s actually quite accurate for a 3 year old, it surprised me. ..I think he’s on to something with the chocolate brownie ice cream.
 
Here is the cute program the teachers made.  So creative!
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And just when we couldn’t take the suspense any longer, the turkey’s showed up..
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and the singing began..
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Here they are performing “I’m A Nut”

They all posed for pictures at the end.
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And all that singing must have made my baby hungry because he practically licked his plate clean..
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I have to say that the teachers are to be commended for all their hard work. It was such a nice program and we are truly lucky to have such wonderful people to teach our children!
Thank you Mrs. J and Mrs. Sandy!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!
love,
Val

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Pics

It was a sultry 57 degrees on Sunday, which is unheard of for November in Illinois.  I decided to take advantage of it and take our family Christmas card pictures. I took them on our Church’s front steps and bribed two little boys to stay off of the ground and not wrestle for 15 minutes while I tried to capture a couple of shots before the chaos began.  When that didn’t work, I told them that I was going to send a Christmas card to Santa and if they looked all crazy, Santa would know that they didn’t do what they were told, which would directly reflect on the amount of gifts left on Christmas morning. That seemed to do the trick. 
So now I will share the pictures that I did NOT use on the Christmas Card. 
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I actually did get some shots where the boys weren’t talking or laughing and they will be revealed when I share our Christmas card in a few weeks. 
I want everyone that I am actually mailing them to, to get one first. 
I hope you had a great Tuesday,
love,
Val

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tumbling Turkey 5K

Well, I made it.
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I didn’t cry or fall …and I finished, so I pretty much met all of my goals. I ran the 5K exactly how I planned to and I was pretty proud of that considering the excitement of the race can make you throw all of your carefully laid plans out the window.  One thing I wasn’t expecting was how good it felt to pass people.  I never considered passing anyone, so when I actually did, it was awesome!
Another thing I didn’t expect was how hard the course was.  We weren’t just trail running, we were running on slick, wet leaves, through slippery mud traps, and over huge roots.  While I was running, I thought, “Wow, this is really hard! Yikes!” But since this was my first ever 5K, I figured it was me, and I just wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was.  It made me feel so much better when I was talking to a very seasoned runner after the race was over and he started the conversation by saying, “Wow, that was a lot harder than I expected.”
Okay, now I don’t feel like such a loser.
..and now my feathers are plumed out even further because I made it through a pretty tough course.
I had a solid finish right in the middle of the pack and I can say I am pretty relieved it is all over, but I had a great time.
The bad part was that I was supposed to run with my best friend Sarah and our buddy Jake.  Sarah and I have been getting up at the crack of dawn for 3 and 1/2 months.
..in the cold
..in the drizzle
..in the cold drizzle
..with no performance enhancers
…Lance Armstrong could learn a thing or two from us,
and 36 hours before the race, Sarah came down with the mother of all stomach flues.  I felt so sorry for her, but I made a commitment and I was going.  So Jake and I headed out this morning without our third amigo.
Jake ran cross-country in high school, so I knew he would be way ahead of me and I was fine with that, but I did miss my running buddy today a whole bunch.  It did give me more resolve to run the race for the both of us, though.  And, bless Jake’s heart, after he finished, he came back and ran the last 500 meters with me, so that was awesome.
Here we are proudly displaying our numbers right before start time..
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Val
and here are all of our competitors..
Pre-race
Well, not all. I took this picture pretty early, right after we arrived.  There were 200 + numbers given out, so there were a lot of participants.
And here we are post race, right after we crossed the line..
(Jake for the second time)
after
..and yes, you should be jealous of my awesome pink beanie!
Then, we got FREE STUFF! I had no idea I would get free stuff for running, it was awesome..
free stuff
They handed out deodorant, (which I am not sure yet whether to be offended about or not) some sport drink mix, a sticker, and some new kind of tea.  They also had hot chocolate, but I didn’t think I could stomach that just yet, so I opted for water.
Unfortunately, I didn’t win a turkey, so that stunk, but I can say I officially completed my first 5K race and lived to tell the tale!
Will I do it again, you ask? …well, maybe.  There’s race in Indianapolis in December that supposedly has cookie stations through out the course.
I’m thinking that sounds like my kind of race, but Jake and I decided we didn’t want to drive clear to Indy to run a race, so then we decided to plan our own cookie race. Jake volunteered his Mom to bake the cookies, to which I replied that a better idea would be to just have his Mom makes us cookies and forget the whole running part, to which Jake replied, “Fair enough.” 
We’re so dedicated.
I had a blast and I am seriously considering doing it again, but I hope next time my running partner can make it!
Have A Great Weekend.
Love,
Val

Friday, November 16, 2012

Just A Few Things..

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1. Tomorrow is “D” day.  I have been training for a 5K for the past couple months and tomorrow morning is the big race. 
…..I am not going to win.
…..I am not going to finish 2nd.
In fact, I have nightmares of finally coming to the finish line and everyone tapping their feet and checking their watches.  All the elderly people have lapped me and just as I finally cross the line, I trip and fall.  ..or cry
..or cry because I fell.  What I’m trying to say is I’m skeeeered.
But I’m keeping in mind the reason why I’m doing this. 
Wait a minute, why am I doing this?
..Oh yeah, we are raising money for the county parks youth programs to help promote healthy lifestyles.
..so, I guess I should leave my Snickers bar at home.
 
2. I read an article about preparing for the race.  It gave me the best advice ever!  It said I should carb up the night before the race.  I am sure they meant for me to eat mashed potatoes and noodles with a side of bread. 
Lesson:  Never give me free license to “carb up”.
 
3.  I won the lottery.  Well, not really.  But, I purchased an Under Armour beanie to wear for my race to keep my head warm.  When the box finally came, it had 3 beanies in it instead of one. 
…those suckers aren’t cheap, so it’s kinda sorta like winning the lottery.  Bonus:  3 x’s the beanie = 3 x’s the sexy
 
4. I will be wearing black for the foreseeable future.  I’m in mourning.  Today I learned that Hostess is going out of business, which means no more Twinkies.  I am pretty sure it says in the bible that this is the first sign of Armageddon.  I am devastated and hording Twinkies like nobody’s business. 
…don’t judge me.
 
I just noticed that in this post I have mentioned Snickers bars, mashed potatoes, noodles, bread, and Twinkies.
I think I am ready for Thanksgiving, or maybe I just need a snack.
Wish me luck tomorrow and I will give a post race update.  ..It will make me look fabulous no matter what happens.
 
Long Live the Twinkie!
love,
Val

Monday, November 12, 2012

From Fem/Pop to Fem-Fatale

My Hubby was finally released to come home today! We are so relieved and our boys are delirious with joy, except they can’t wrestle their Dad, so they are a little confused by that. Here is a picture Ben drew for his Daddy…
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..so sweet.
Just to explain, my Husband had a Fem/Pop Bypass that was caused by entrapment syndrome behind the knee.  Basically his Femoral Artery was getting cut off by an abnormal tissue, whenever he contracted his muscles, his whole life and was causing severe circulation issues which resulted in an aneurism in his left leg last year. They fixed his left leg exactly one year ago and last Thursday they fixed the right leg because is was on it’s way to aneurising and they wanted to prevent that from happening. So they did a bypass, just like they do in hearts, and went around the entrapped area to restore blood flow.  If you would like to read a little more about what exactly a Fem/Pop Bypass is, just click on the link..
 
Before we were released today, we met with the Surgeon and his PA and they were a little concerned with the swelling on my Hubby’s leg, so the Surgeon looks at the PA and says, “Why don’t we order him up some stockings. Probably need to be the thigh high ones.”
Ok..
1.  He said it straight faced.
2.  You know I can’t let that go.
And me, being me, couldn’t resist letting out a “whoo hoo.” and then, of course, I added,”I’ve always wanted to see him in stockings.”
Then, I realized that maybe the Doctor and PA wouldn’t find me near as funny as I think I am.  Fortunately, the Surgeon, who is the most straight laced, no-nonsense person I’ve ever met, smirked and said, “Sorry….they aren’t the lacy ones.” (Once again..completely straight faced.) Then I replied, “Do we at least get matching garters?” To which the PA replied, “Hey, this is serious medical stuff going on here…and the garters are completely up to you, but remember he is kinda at your mercy right now, so have fun with that.” …it’s nice to know that we were all just a little deranged today. 
Then, before we could leave, they ordered a Doppler test done on the leg to measure blood flow.  The girl came in to do it, and when she did the Doppler the whoosh-whoosh… whoosh-whoosh sound of his heart beating, filled the room.  I had a flash back to hearing a similar little heart beat in my belly in the obstetricians office and then..once again, not being able to help myself… I said to the girl, “So?…Is it a boy or girl?”  To which she laughed hysterically and then I said, “Hey, don’t laugh, I just discussed what kind of stockings we were getting for him and now we hear a heart beat. I’m starting to get a little uncomfortable.” 
I can’t tell you what Adam said because it is against by delicate sensibilities to repeat such things.
So, I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that if you ever have a Fem/Pop Bypass, you will become a cross-dressing, pregnant man with a bad attitude.
 
So happy my shnookums is home!
Have a great evening!
love,
Val

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Integral of X Squared ..and other stuff

My husband had surgery this week and so I have spent quality time in the waiting room contemplating serious things like:
What is the meaning of life?
Is there life on other planets?
Will the next Twilight be as boring as the last one?
How could K Stew have ever cheated on R Pat? (..seriously,what was she thinking?!)
….ya know, the general things we all ponder and want to know.
I also got to snicker and chuckle at my Hubby in his loopy, drugged up state before and after surgery.
Not many of you may know, but when Engineers let their hair down, they get a little crazy…
They throw caution to the wind and start doing higher level math with wild abandon.
It’s pretty scandalous.
My hubby decided to taunt me and make me ask him math questions. 
Example:
Hubby: “Wow, whatever they just gave me is making me feel wacky.”
Me: “Really.”
Hubby: “Ask me what the integral  of   X2 is  .”
Me: “No.”
Hubby: “No really, ask me.”
Me: “I don’t wanna.”
Hubby: “No, really, I know it, you should ask me”
Me: *sigh* “Okay, what is the integral of X2   ?”
Hubby : “It’s   1/3 x3   .  See I told ya I would know it.”
Me: “Yep, you did, honey. *eye roll*
 
Scandalous.
I think we can now all agree that my life is an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”.
 
Then I about hyperventilated later when he got moved into a hospital room and I thought he had really ticked off the Health Care Tech.
Me: “Can I get a chair?”
HTC: “Sure!”
(HTC leaves the room and comes back with a folding chair.)
Hubby looks up and says “ Yeah honey, make the pregnant girl carry the chair.”
Unfortunately it had yet to be determined if the girl was pregnant or not. In fact, I didn’t even notice much of a bump.
I started sweating and I thought he was going to have a really, really rough evening if she wasn’t.
Lucky for him, she looked up and said, “How did you know I was pregnant?”
Hubby: “I just did.”
Evidently morphine makes you psychic.
You learn something new everyday.
 
On another note, I decided since I was going to have quite a bit of down time on my hands, I would teach myself to crochet. So, I got on Pinterest, looked up How To Crochet, bought some yarn and went crazy.
I started with just a basic, single crochet stitch and started making my loops..
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and before long, I had a scarf..
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I was going to take a picture of myself wearing it, but I found a much cuter model.
I think I’m on a roll and I’m actually contemplating making something else.
We shall see.
Have A Wonderful Evening!
love,
Val

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

White Lasagna

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Sometimes I get really tired of cooking meat.  I know, I know, I just heard you all collectively gasp, but it’s true.  I often say that I would be a vegetarian if I wasn’t so lazy.  …Or maybe I said veterinarian.  Oh well, either way, it works. 
I think it takes a lot of effort to consciously try NOT to eat meat, so I eat it, and for the most part I really like it. It’s just that every once in a while, I have to take a break and cook something veggie based.  So I came up with my own rendition of White Lasagna and I think it really turned out great.  You know it was a success when my hubby thought it was really good..and he didn’t complain about the absence of meat!  So here it is, all my Facebook followers can finally be happy after I teased you about how good it was yesterday!
White Lasagna
Okay, first you need to heat 2 TBSP. of butter and 2 TBSP. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a big ole skillet on medium heat.  Once the butter is all melted toss in 3 or 4 cloves of freshly diced garlic and saute. 
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Then add in one large or two medium sliced Zucchini and 4 large diced portabello mushrooms and a couple good sized pinches of salt. Saute on medium until the mushrooms just start to sweat and the zucchini is starting to soften. Set aside.
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Now you need to make the white sauce, which is super simple.  In fact, if you have ever made homemade mac & cheese or scalloped potatoes, you have made a white sauce. 
In a medium sauce pan, melt 3 Tbsp. of butter, then stir in 3 Tbsps. of flour and cook for a couple minutes.  Then, add in 4 Cups of Milk and stir it in well.  Heat it all slowly until it just starts to simmer, stirring constantly.  Once it simmers, it will thicken and then you want to remove it from heat.  Immediately add in 2 Cups of grated Parmesan Cheese, 2 Tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of grated nutmeg. Stir until the Parmesan is completely melted.  Voila, you now have white sauce with Parmesan cheese. 
*tip: taste your sauce to make sure you have enough salt! Trust me on this one.  You’ll have very bland lasagna if you don’t taste now.
In a 13 x 9 baking dish, lightly coat the bottom with a little bit of the white sauce and then begin to layer your lasagna.
I use the noodles that don’t require to be boiled in this recipe because the mushrooms and zucchini will cook out a lot of water and the noodles will soak all of that good juice right up.  ..It works pretty well.
So, put down a layer of noodles, then a layer of mushrooms and zucchini and then about 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat all of this again and then I add one more layer of noodles on top and top it off with the last of the sauce.  Then I cover the whole thing in Mozzarella Cheese.
Here she is in all her layered glory after I set her in the oven.
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I’m not sure why I think lasagna is female, but it just seems right.  Also, if you’re wondering what all those little balls are on the lasagna, it is the Mozzarella.  I don’t really like to use pre-shredded Mozzarella.  I know….. I’m a cheese snob, but I can’t help it.  And why not use the real deal when it comes in these little “pearls”  that you don’t even have to cut up!?  I found them at Wal-Mart in the specialty cheeses.  …you should try it, you’ll never go back.
Bake at 375 for 40 to 45 minutes or until the cheese is all melted and just starting to turn brown.
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Yummy.
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mmmm…  I guarantee you won’t miss the meat!
I hope you have a great Wednesday evening!
love,
Val

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

 
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Someone needs to tell my brain that I could have slept an extra hour this morning.
When you are staring at the ceiling, wide awake, at 5:00 am, the only thing to do is bake.
It’s a rule.
(I should write a book about all the rules I have because I’m sure it’s getting confusing for some of you.)
So, I decided to bake Red Velvet Cupcakes for my friend Kenzie.
Kenzie, her Mother, her Aunt and I were all at a Christmas Craft Show this weekend. Kenzie and I sold glitzy purses, jewelry, scarves, etc. Here are some pictures of our wares..
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Kenzie’s Momma and Aunt sold their beautiful handmade crafts.  Our booths are right next to each other which works out great because we help each other a lot and sit and talk, and laugh, and eat, and every once in a while, we sell something. 
 
When we aren’t eating or selling, we talk about food because, what else is there to talk about? Kenzie mentioned that she loved Red Velvet Cupcakes so I decided to surprise her this morning, on our last day of the Craft Show, with some cupcakes.
Here is the recipe I use.
 
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Put 1 Stick of room temperature, unsalted, sweet cream butter, 2 Cups of sugar, and 1/4 Cups of packed brown sugar in a mixing bowl and blend together until light and fluffy. Then add 2 large eggs and 1/2 Cup oil and blend together again.
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Then, sift together 2 1/2 Cups of flour, 2 Tbsp. of Cocoa powder, 1 tsp. of baking soda, and 1/4 tsp. of salt in a separate bowl (or a flexible plastic mat).
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Then, in a pourable container, like a Pyrex measuring cup, measure out 1 Cup of Buttermilk, 1 Tbsp. of red food coloring, 1 tsp. Vanilla, and 1 tsp. white vinegar.
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(Sometimes when I make these just for my family, I only use half the red food coloring.  ..so, I guess that would make them pink velvet cupcakes, huh?)
Now, you need to add the flour mixture and milk mixture into the butter mixture. This needs to be done in a certain order.
Start  by adding 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half the milk mixture, 1/3 of the flour mixture again, the rest of the milk mixture, and finally the rest of the flour, mixing until just combined in between each addition.
Trust me, you MUST do it this way or you cupcakes will turn out funky!
Evenly distribute your batter among 2 cupcake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Do not over bake!! Yes, it deserves two exclamation marks because it’s a crime to have dry cupcakes. Justice should be served swiftly and without remorse.
Meanwhile, you can make your frosting, which is my favorite part!
Cream Cheese Frosting
Blend together 1/2 stick of room temperature, unsalted butter and 8 oz. of cream cheese very well.  Then, slowly add in 3 Cups of powdered sugar. Once that is combined, add a tsp. of Vanilla and mix again.
Voila. You now have a cream cheese frosting.
Once your cupcakes are cool, you can slather on the frosting and have something that looks like this..
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They are yummy and pretty simple to make!
Have A Great Sunday Evening!
love,
Val